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14 chronic health issues to be aware of when you turn 50

written by Vidya Sury April 20, 2024
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Aging can bring health issues with it. Some chronic, some new. A majority of older adults have one or more chronic health issues and often, more than one. If you are anywhere close to fifty years old or just there, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what to expect so that you can take the necessary steps to make sure you live a healthy life.

Prevention is better than cure. Early detection can bring peace of mind. Here are at least 14 common chronic health issues to be aware of when you turn 50.

14 common chronic health issues to be aware of when you turn 50

1. Diabetes

I put this first on the list because I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I turned 50. According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45. So your chances of getting the disease increase as you get older. Diabetes can lead to other health complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, vision problems, skin issues and more.

What to do:

Talk to your doctor. Get a full health check to see where you stand. Check your blood sugar at regular intervals.   

2. High Blood Pressure

The older we get, the less flexible are our blood vessels. As a result, this puts extra pressure on the system that transports blood throughout our body. This is also why those over 60 have high blood pressure. However, some reasons can cause high blood pressure in your control.

What to do:

Watch your weight. Exercise regularly. Even a daily walk makes a big difference. If you smoke, quit. Manage your stress. Watch and reduce your salt intake. And of course, eat healthily.

3. Heart Disease

One of the main causes of heart disease is plaque build-up in the arteries. This happens gradually over the years and becomes worse as you get older. According to studies,

Age plays a vital role in the deterioration of cardiovascular functionality, resulting in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in older adults. The prevalence of CVD has also been shown to increase with age, in both men and women, including the prevalence of atherosclerosis, stroke and, myocardial infarction. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that the incidence of CVD in US men and women is ~40% from 40–59 years, ~75% from 60–79 years, and ~86% in those above the age of 80.

What to do:

Be physically active. Move for at least 30 minutes a day. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Manage your weight. Get good sleep. Get regular health checks. Quit smoking.

4. Obesity

Those extra pounds can cause a lot of lifestyle and chronic health issues. Obesity is linked to a long list of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and arthritis.   The CDC states that:

The US obesity prevalence was 41.9% in 2017 – March 2020. (NHANES, 2021)

From 1999 –2000 through 2017 –March 2020, US obesity prevalence increased from 30.5% to 41.9%. During the same time, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%. (NHANES, 2021)

Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. These are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death.

What to do:

If you are overweight, talk to your physician about safe ways to manage weight. Consult a dietician for a healthy eating plan. Get regular health checks.

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5. Osteoarthritis

While joint pain and joint disease can happen as a result of wear and tear as we age, there are other factors at work here. Genetics and lifestyle. If you have joint injuries that prevent you from being physically active, or if you have diabetes or are overweight, all of this can cause osteoarthritis.

What to do:

At the risk of sounding repetitive, ensure that you get exercise every day. If you have joint pain or injuries, see your doctor and get treated. Manage your weight to bring it to healthy levels. If you have diabetes or are at risk for the condition, get professional advice to manage it.

6. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that makes your bones weak, leading to fractures especially if you are over 50.

What to do:

Consume a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to strengthen your bones. Talk to your doctor about suitable weight-bearing exercises such as dancing, jogging, climbing the stairs, etc.

7. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease. It results in obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include difficulty in breathing, cough, production of mucus, wheezing, etc.

Common causes for this are exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, often from cigarette smoke. COPD puts people at risk for heart disease, lung cancer, and several other conditions. The problem with COPD is that it progresses slowly and you may not even be aware you have it.

What to do:

Exercise. Eat a healthy diet. Quit smoking. Avoid smoke and pollution. Talk to your doctor if you feel uncomfortable breathing.

8. Hearing Loss

Finding yourself asking people to repeat themselves? Most people chalk it down to the inevitability of getting older. But when it interferes you’re your routine, it becomes a problem. The causes, besides aging, could be loud noises, a health condition, your genetic makeup, or medication you are taking.

What to do:

Talk to your doctor if the hearing loss is a problem.

9. Vision Problems

Like hearing loss, aging comes with blurry vision for some. This is especially irritating when you are out shopping and are trying to read the fine print on those labels or trying to read the menu at a restaurant. Cataracts are a leading cause of visual impairment in old age, along with glaucoma.

Cataract is the partial or total opacification of the lens, usually progressive and irreversible, leading to loss of vision with medical, social and economic implications. Typically occurring with advancing age, it is a frequent cause of age-related blindness and it is reversible through surgery.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that cause damage to your optic nerve and can result in loss of eyesight.

What to do:

See your ophthalmologist for regular eye exams so that you can take timely action if necessary.

Chronic health issues to be aware of when you turn 50 man wearing maroon, white, and blue stripe long-sleeved shirt lifting up baby wearing gray onesie

10. Bladder Problems

Bladder problems are a part of aging. Being unable to go when you want to or having to go too often can be caused by nerve problems, muscle weakness, thickening tissue or an enlarged prostate.

What to do:

Exercise regularly. Make healthy lifestyle changes. Cut down on caffeine. Avoid lifting heavy weights. All of these can help. If the problem gets worse, see your doctor.

11. Cancer

Age is one of the main risk factors for cancer.

A growing body of literature indicates that aging and cancer often play a somewhat reciprocal relationship at various times. For one, aging is a “driver” of cancer, and cancer is a “disease driver” of aging.

Of course, cancer affects young people as well but the odds of developing it double between the ages of 45 and 54. While age and genes cannot be controlled, there are lifestyle changes that help.

The disease affects young people, too, but your odds of having it more than double between ages 45 and 54. You can’t control your age or your genes, but you do have a say in things like smoking or spending too much time in the sun.

What to do:

Stop smoking. If you are genetically at risk for cancer, avoid spending too much time in the sun.

12. Depression

It could be that empty nest or grown-up children getting busy with their stuff, or just sheer loneliness or life changes. And it doesn’t help if you have a health condition. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. among people 18 and over. Here is an article that highlights what depression looks like in older adults and what to do.

What to do:

Physical activity goes a long way in helping combat depression, along with eating a healthy, balanced diet. Make sure you get enough sleep. At least 7-9 hours is the recommendation. Stay connected with friends and family. Take up hobbies and activities you enjoy. If you feel the symptoms of depression, let your doctor, family and friends know.

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13. Back Pain

This is perhaps one of the most common complaints while aging. Several factors are responsible, such as extra weight, smoking, not being physically active, or health conditions such as arthritis and cancer.

What to do:

Watch and manage your weight. Exercise regularly. Get enough Vitamin D and calcium for strong bones. Do gentle exercises to strengthen your back muscles.

14. Dementia

With age, some people experience forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. This usually happens around the age of 65. Risk factors include age and heredity, two things that are not in your control.

What to do:

Eating a heart-healthy diet and watching your blood pressure and blood sugar might help.

To summarize, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and periodical health checks can keep most of the above health issues at bay.

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