Age brings wisdom, right? By age 50, you know to prioritize your health—to eat right, to avoid heart disease, to get your regular screenings. But certain everyday habits could be damaging your body—and shortening your life—without you even realizing it. These are five health habits experts warn you should avoid if you’re over 50. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
After 50, weight gain can sneak up on you. Both men and women are susceptible; women particularly after menopause. The accumulation of too many pounds can lead to obesity, which comes with an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and dementia—which people over 50 are already at higher risk for. To prevent obesity, be proactive about preventing gradual weight gain, says Kirsten Davidson, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for research at Boston College. Weigh yourself regularly. If you see the numbers on the scale start to climb, make some healthy changes.
As every other TV commercial seems to tell us these days, erectile dysfunction can be difficult to talk about. Here’s a reason why you shouldn’t brush it off: “There is a very strong link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease,” says the Cleveland Clinic. “Having ED is as much a risk factor for heart disease as a history of smoking or a family history of coronary artery disease.” That’s because the arteries that carry blood to the penis are connected to the heart, and erection problems can be a red light that something’s wrong. If you’re experiencing ED regularly, talk with your doctor.
To live a long life, you need to learn to let things go and chill out. That’s the implicit advice of several studies that have found chronic stress increases your risk of various disease and weakened immunity. Last year, a study published in BMJ Open found that being under chronic severe stress shortened men’s lives by 2.8 years and women’s by 2.3 years. And a 2018 study published in the journal Neurology found that people who lead high-stress lives may experience brain shrinkage and memory loss even before they turn 50—exactly what you don’t want as dementia risk begins to rise.
Frequent snoring could be the sign of a condition called sleep apnea. That’s when the airway behind the tongue collapses when you breathe in, reducing or even stopping your airflow for up to a minute. Sleep apnea is more than inconvenient—it’s been linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, possibly because it causes oxygen deprivation that stresses the blood vessels and heart. Considering that the risk of heart problems begins to rise at age 50, if you snore, talk with your doctor about it.
As we age, most of us get less active when our bodies need us to keep moving. Regular physical exercise protects against a wide variety of chronic diseases, and mental exercise is crucial to keeping cognitive decline and dementia at bay. “Don’t quit learning and doing,” says Robert Beam, MD, a family medicine specialist with Novant Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in North Carolina. “At 50 years of age, the actuarial tables predict that you will live to be age 80. If you assume adult life begins at 21, you’ve lived 29 years as an adult, and you have 30 years left to live. At 50, your adult life is only half over.” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.