Your 50s and 60s are known as “middle age.” Historically, this was a time to slow down, begin to ease into retirement and prepare for your sunset years in a rocking chair. Things have changed a bit.
While you’re no longer a kid and are most certainly a slightly older adult, being in your 50s and 60s does not mean you have to put on the brakes. It just means you might have to go in for a tuneup more than usual and monitor the quality of fuel (food) you consume.
“The goal to staying healthy and active in your 50s and 60s is to understand normal signs of aging, such as a few aches and pains and decreased energy, and to stay up to date on age-appropriate screenings and vaccines,” says Dr. Amber Ortega, a board-certified family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy. “Such awareness and early preventive care helps to avoid unnecessary visits to your medical provider and prevents diseases from advancing to the point of causing trouble.”
“As with every age, preventive care and maximizing your current health is key,” she says. Here’s what you might want to focus on during this time of your life.
Medications and vaccinations
- After age 50, you should be vaccinated against the virus that causes shingles.
- Don’t forget to get your annual flu vaccine and ask your doctor about getting a Tdap — tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) — shot every 10 years.
- Talk with your doctor about calculating your risk of heart attack and stroke using your cholesterol blood levels, weight and most recent blood pressure.
- Routine mammogram screening every one or two years is recommended for the general female population over 50. Have a discussion with your doctor about your own risk based on different factors in your life, which could determine your screening interval.
- Until a woman reaches age 65, she should receive a cervical cancer screening with routine Pap tests every five years.
- Women 65 years or older should receive regular screening for osteoporosis every five to eight years, based on their risk level.
- Men over 50 should ask their doctor about prostate cancer screening.
- It is time for both men and women to begin colon cancer screening, using colonoscopy or other screening options. This should be a joint decision with your provider.
- If you are overweight or obese, you will want to discuss getting screened for diabetes.
- Ask your doctor about lung cancer screening if you have a significant smoking history (30 or more years of smoking a pack per day or equivalent use), currently smoke or if you quit smoking within the past 15 years.
- Sun damage adds up through the years — talk to your doctor about any changes in your skin, including moles or other spots, and always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above.
- Have your eyes examined annually.
- Talk to your doctor about having your hearing screened once you reach the age of 65.
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings should be performed as needed throughout your adult life, depending on your risk level.
- Regular screening for depression is recommended for all adults — talk to your doctor if you have been feeling sad or hopeless, or if your work, relationships or the activities you once enjoyed have been negatively affected.
- Increase your activity level to ensure moderate-intensity exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Maintain a well-balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Get an adequate amount of sleep each night.
- Limit nicotine, alcohol and drug use.
- Healthy relationships with family and friends remain important to your overall physical and mental health. Staying connected to others helps to keep you active, adds a sense of purpose and encourages you to take care of yourself.
“Your doctor is your health and wellness partner,” Dr. Ortega says. “Regular care and open communication with your doctor allows you to maximize your health and, in return, continue to maximize your quality of life and happiness.”
This article is the third in a series featuring Dr. Amber Ortega and the health issues that arise and questions you should ask your doctor in each chapter of your life. Earlier articles featured ways to take charge of your health in your 20s and what to know about your health in your 30s and 40s. Future articles will focus on health and wellness in your senior years.