Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Health Issues After Age 50 - What Can You Expect?

Most of us enter our 50s and 60s in generally good health and, ideally, we hope to stay that way.  We may get exercise, eat right the majority of the time, and avoid taking unnecessary risks.  Despite all that, we may suddenly develop an unexpected illness.  The more we know about these health issues, the greater our odds of overcoming them.

WebMD recently posted a list of the most common health issues which often suddenly develop and affect people after they hit age 50.  I found it very illuminating and thought I would share this information with my readers.  While we may not be able to avoid them all, it is important we recognize what we might be experiencing when something happens, so we can respond as quickly as possible and get the treatment which will be the most effective.  Understanding the symptoms of these problems can also make it easier for you to help a spouse or other loved one when they fall ill.

Heart Attacks

While younger adults can have a heart attack, is it more likely you could have one as you age.  In fact, as of 2019, approximately 735,000 people a year have heart attacks.  This is despite the fact that we have made advances in preventative measures such as statin drugs, blood pressure medications, fewer smokers, special diets, and exercise programs.  Fifty percent of men who reach age 50 can expect to eventually have a heart attack, and it is also a major cause of death for women.  What are some symptoms to watch for?

You should call for an ambulance if you or someone you know experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, and/or a sudden, unexplained pain in the back, shoulders, or neck. At the same time, it is even more likely you are having a heart attack if you also feel sweaty, dizzy, or nauseous.  Women may not have chest pain, but if they have several of the other symptoms, they should also suspect a heart attack.  Many people have a-typical heart attacks, so it is important to be aware of that. When my husband had his heart attack, he did not have chest pain.  In addition, he had pain in his right shoulder, although it is more common to have pain in the left shoulder.  He also became very pale and clammy.  Know your body.  If something doesn't feel right, trust yourself. 


A stroke occurs when blood does not get to a part of your brain and the brain cells start to die.  Call an ambulance immediately if your face begins to droop on one side, you have sudden weakness or numbness in your face, arms, or legs, you lose your bearings or get confused, and you have trouble talking. There are treatments which can reverse the effects, but they have to be taken within the first couple of hours.  Do not delay!


An aneurysm means that a weak part of a blood vessel is bulging out and is at risk of leaking or rupturing.  One of our daughters had an aneurysm rupture in her brain when she was only in her late 40s.  While it can happen at any age, the older you are, the greater your risk.  Our daughter's first symptom was a sudden, blinding headache and extreme nausea.  Other symptoms can include clammy skin, dizziness and a rapid heartbeat.  It you suddenly feel terrible and think you are experiencing the worst headache you ever had, do not hesitate to rush to the emergency room.  The sooner they stop the bleeding in the brain, the more likely you are to recover.  Our daughter happened to be with a retired paramedic when her aneurysm occurred.  He recognized the symptoms, rushed her to the emergency room, and today she is just fine.


It seems as if more and more frequently I hear about friends who have had gallbladder problems.  Suspect that you have a gallstone if you have severe pain behind your belly button.  Eating rich, fatty foods can bring on a gallbladder attack. Being overweight can contribute to gallstones, as can diabetes and Crohn's Disease.  The best advice is to eat a healthy diet, avoid fatty foods, and go to the doctor if you experience unusual pain in your stomach.

Acute Pancreatitis

If gallstones become bad enough, they can trigger acute pancreatitis.  It can also be caused if you are a heavy drinker, or you have high calcium or triglyceride levels.  If you have extreme nausea, vomiting, a fever and a lot of pain, do not brush it off as the flu.  Go to the emergency room.  It could save your life.


The older you are, the greater your risk of dying from pneumonia, especially if your immune system becomes weaker, or you are sedentary for a few weeks after surgery or a broken bone. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by a bacteria, not a virus.  The good news is that there is a vaccine for many of the bacteria which cause pneumonia and it is highly recommended that you get it.  The bad news is that you can also come down with viral pneumonia, especially after a case of the flu or a bad cold, and the pneumonia vaccine will do nothing to prevent it.  If you have a fever and difficulty breathing after a cold or the flu, see your doctor.  There are treatments for pneumonia, whether it is caused by bacteria or a virus. 

Pulmonary Embolism

This occurs when a blood clot gets stuck in your lungs, and it can be life threatening.  It often occurs after you have had a heart attack, surgery, or if you have sat for a long time in a cramped position, such as an airplane seat.  The first symptom may be a sharp pain in your leg, which is where these blood clots often originate.  Symptoms include blood when you cough, sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, clamminess, or bluish skin.  Pulmonary embolisms are very dangerous, so get yourself checked if you experience these symptoms.  In addition, you may consider wearing medical support socks when you fly.  They can lessen your risk of developing a blood clot in your leg.

Other Common Health Issues After Age 50

The above list includes some of the more dangerous health issues which can develop as you age, but there are other common medical problems which can cause you pain and make your life miserable. These include broken bones which are a result of osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, vertigo, detached retinas, gout and kidney stones.

You may also be diagnosed in your later years with other life-threatening illnesses such as chronic kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and bursitis.  The risk of developing any of these illnesses increase with age.

How to Protect Yourself Against Poor Health

The best protection against these illnesses is to get annual check-ups from your doctors, including specialists such as a dermatologist who will monitor you for skin cancer.  Women should get mammograms and men should have their prostrate checked.  Everyone should get a complete blood count at least annually, and more often if their doctor recommends it.  Your blood work can help doctors determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke, whether you are developing chronic kidney disease, blood cancers, diabetes, and other health issues.  Periodically, you will also want to get a bone density scan and any vaccines suggested by your doctor, including an annual flu shot. The flu shot not only reduces your risk of getting the flu, but lowers your risk of developing some forms of pneumonia. Be consistent about taking the medications you are prescribed to prevent heart disease and other problems.

It is equally important to make any lifestyle changes which are recommended by your doctors.  For example, if you have signs of developing heart disease or kidney disease, they may suggest you see a specialist or nutritionist and follow a specific diet.  In general, most people should eat a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats, but your diet can vary depending on your medical issues. For example, people with chronic kidney disease should avoid red meat and limit their consumption of certain fruits and vegetables.  Your doctor will be able to give you a list of foods to avoid so you stay healthy as long as possible.

Regardless of you health issues, you should also try to maintain a healthy weight, give up smoking, limit your alcohol consumption, and get plenty of exercise.  If you develop any unusual symptoms, see a doctor.  If you experience severe or sudden pain, go to the emergency room.

After age 50, health issues can reveal themselves suddenly.  However, we do not have to let them be debilitating or end our lives prematurely.

If you are interested in learning more about common health issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, travel or where to retire, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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  1. This is a comprehensive list. I would add one thing about gall bladder issues. If one or both of your parents needed to have their gall bladder removed, you probably will as well. Pay attention to the symptoms, and go to the E.R. quickly if you have an attack. A gall bladder attack can kill.

    1. Thank you for your tip about being extra vigilant if your parents had gall bladder issues. Genetics can predispose people to many diseases, so we should always know as much as possible about our family medical history.


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