People say that as you age, you become wiser and more mature. You get more patient when facing everyday problems and know the importance of taking care of your health. If you are celebrating your 50th journey around the sun this year, you may be more at risk of suffering from a chronic illness. The good news is that this is the right time to take control and prevent complications with your health.

Most health problems can be treated with medications and changes in lifestyle, such as having healthy eating habits, exercising, and reducing stress. Also, getting routine health exams and yearly tests with your doctor is vital.

As a woman over 50 years old, what should you watch out for?

Women often start having hormonal changes when they lose the protection of estrogen during this stage in life. This is why, they should pay special attention to these three health issues: heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast cancer.

  • Risk factors for heart disease — As we age, our vascular system changes. This is made worse by the extra weight and added stress, leading to hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which are the main risks of heart disease.  This disease often shows no obvious symptoms, which makes it hard to detect.
  • Osteoporosis – This condition makes your bones weaker due to bone loss caused by the lack of estrogen after menopause. A bone density test is performed to detect the risk level of bone fractures. 
  • Breast cancer – Women must stay up-to-date on their routine exams. This includes getting a yearly mammogram, especially if your family has a history of cancer. Other routine tests you should get are pap smears (PAP) to detect ovarian cancer and occult blood tests for the early detection of colon cancer. You should also get a colonoscopy every two years.

As a man over 50 years old, what should you know about your health risks?

Men often don’t seek medical help as quickly as women. At this stage in their lives, men experience lower testosterone levels and health issues that affect them, particularly as they get older. Some of the most common conditions are prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and heart and cerebrovascular diseases.

  • Cancer – The types of cancer that are more common in men as they age are lung, colorectal, and prostate cancer. In Puerto Rico, men start getting occult blood screening tests starting at 40 years old. The gastroenterologist may order a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy based on these results and the patient’s family history, clinical assessment, and medical records. Your doctor may also suggest that you get a prostate-specific antigen test. This is an important tool to detect prostate cancer early.
  • Heart diseases – Data shows that heart diseases are the leading cause of death in Puerto Rico. Men are at a higher risk due to high consumption of alcohol and tobacco, physical inactivity, and a diet high in saturated fats. The yearly  test is vital to detect and control these conditions.
  • Cerebrovascular diseases — Men who smoke, have hypertension, or are overweight are more likely to suffer cerebrovascular accidents, also known as strokes. The key to preventing strokes is to identify and treat the underlying causes as early as possible with the help of your routine exams.

Remember: Delaying your health care increases the chances of complications, the cost of treatment, while also increasing the risk of hospitalizations, emotional stress, and even death. Don’t wait any longer. Start your preventive care now and celebrate your 50th birthday in perfect health!