By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC
Typically as men age, their health needs and concerns change. Many of the top health guidelines for men over 50 are the same for individuals at any age: eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, and get plenty of quality sleep. However, men over 50 should also be mindful of reducing their risk of health conditions that commonly affect older men.
Following a healthy lifestyle can help men over 50 protect their health while also lowering their risk of many common health problems. Follow these tips to stay healthy and energetic as you age.
Certain health screenings are especially important for men over 50. Screenings help detect health problems in their early stages, often before symptoms even develop. If you haven’t been in the habit of scheduling regular exams and screenings with a physician in the past, now is the time to start. The specific screenings recommended for you by your doctor will depend somewhat on your individual health concerns, family health history, and lifestyle habits.
Some of the most important screenings for men over 50 include:
- Cholesterol. High cholesterol increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Nearly one in three adults in the United States has high levels of low-density lipoprotein, the type of cholesterol that contributes to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. People between the ages of 40 and 75 are the most likely to need medication for high cholesterol.
- Blood pressure. High blood pressure also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as some other diseases. Blood pressure is easily checked at your doctor’s office.
- Prostate cancer. Men over 50 should talk to their doctor about a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to check for early signs of prostate cancer. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland. Elevated levels of PSA in the blood could indicate the possibility of prostate cancer.
- Colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that all individuals at average risk of colon cancer begin regular screenings at age 45. Colon cancer screenings can be done with a stool test or a visual test that examines the colon and rectum.
Eating a healthy diet is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer.
A healthy diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, quality sources of protein, and healthy fats. Avoid trans fats, sugar, processed foods, and other inflammatory foods such as vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates, and processed meats.
Many major diseases—including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation. Eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, such as olive oil, leafy greens, berries, tomatoes, nuts, fatty fish, and green tea can reduce the risk of inflammation and inflammatory diseases.
As you age, your body may also have difficulty absorbing certain nutrients from food. Older adults are particularly at risk of low levels of vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about vitamins or supplements that can help you maintain healthy levels of these essential nutrients.
Regular exercise doesn’t just help you control your weight, but also helps increase strength and stamina; reduces the risk of falls and broken bones among older adults; and reduces the risk of health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes.
Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. Moderate activity, such as walking, can provide significant health benefits, especially if done daily. Older adults who are sedentary should start with short periods of moderate activity, such as 5 to 10 minutes of walking, and work their way up to increased intensity or duration.
Look for more ways to build physical activity into your daily routine. Activities such as bike riding, gardening, and dancing can all provide health benefits.
Proper sleep is important at any age, but older adults are particularly at risk of sleep disorders. More than half of older adults suffer from insomnia. Older adults may also experience disrupted sleep patterns, such as difficulty staying asleep and waking up several times throughout the night.
To improve your sleep, get regular exercise, avoid stimulants such as coffee in the evening, and maintain a regular schedule. If you suffer from severe insomnia, talk to your doctor about medications that can help you sleep.
Even if you haven’t followed these guidelines in the past, it’s never too late to make your health a priority. Small changes can have a significant impact on your health, and adopting these tips can help you not just live longer, but enjoy your later years to their fullest.
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Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.