13 August 2003

Your body - the 50s

Anyone under the age of 30 now officially regards you as old. Don’t place too much importance on that – just consider what teenyboppers classify as music. There are some things that you should be concerned about, though. One is in your head. The others at the er, other end.


There are some health issues that you should be very concerned about at this age.

One down south is your prostate, that little gland you hadn’t heard about until your heard it could kill you. It’s prone to cancer in older men. Often men who have prostate cancer live with it for years and die of something else. But it’s important to get a blood test and a rectal exam done each year once you turn 50.

Your doctor will probably explain to you the difference between benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis and prostate cancer. Read more about your prostate.

Another problem, that affects around half of men in your age group, is erectile dysfunction. In most cases, the inability to keep an erection is neither physical nor permanent. It can be caused by stress, which might be completely unrelated to sex. If you’re worried about your job, your kids’ exams or your finances, this can make you go soft in the head, as it were.

Performance anxiety can also trigger erectile dysfunction, where you dread being unable to get an erection and are consequently unable to get an erection. Speak to your doctor and isolate the cause before assuming there’s some physical problem.

Some men are inclined to let themselves go, giving up on exercise and eating all the foods that pile on the pounds. Bad idea. Now, more than ever, it’s important to eat sensibly and stay active. In fact there are few activities that you should have to give up on. A healthy diet is essential in the prevention of weight gain and the attendant risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Heart health is extremely important at this age. Cut down on foods that are high in cholesterol and can damage your heart. Exercise and good stress release mechanisms are essential for the health of your heart. Have your blood pressure checked regularly – they don't call hypertension 'the silent killer' for nothing.

Cut your drinking down to 2 units of alcohol per day. More than this puts unnecessary stress on your liver. Smoking is also extremely bad for your health in general and can lead to a myriad of health problems, including lung cancer and heart problems. The fact that you are already in your fifties is no excuse to continue smoking – stopping at any age will benefit your health.

There are two easy ways to ensure your diet stays healthy. The first is to have as colourful a plate as possible, with a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. The other is the so-called Mediterannean diet, which includes fish, fresh greens, olive oil, pulses, grains and a modest intake of red wine. It is important that you cut down your intake of animal fats – they do terrible things to your arteries and to your weight.

But the news is certainly not all bad. Many men in their fifties are hearty, healthy, extremely active and fitter than men half their age. With a little effort on your part, this could be you.



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