For many people, their 50s are a time of change. Their children may be leaving the house, retirement is becoming a bigger question, and their bodies are beginning to feel different.
Our bodies change throughout our lifetimes, and the decade between 50 and 60 isn't necessarily the most dramatic shift. However, there are some common health changes to look out for at this age.
Most people begin replacing muscle with fat in their thirties and by their fifties, they may notice a decrease in strength and muscle tone. This change is normal and not a sign of illness in most cases, but a significant number of people in their 50s develop sarcopenia, or significant age-related muscle loss.
You can improve muscular health by eating plenty of protein and exercising.
The loss of muscle and changes to the skin mean that those in their 50s are likely to develop more fine lines and wrinkles. They may also notice age spots and skin tags, particularly if they have smoked, tanned frequently, or weighed more in the past.
These changes are not dangerous in general, but there are medicines and creams that can help.
Menopause is defined as the year after a person's last period and there are many hormonal and bodily changes associated with it. The average age of menopause is 51. Periods leading up to menopause may be spotty, irregular, or heavier than usual before they stop. A person may experience hot flashes, mood changes, or shifts in weight.
It's important to note that bleeding more than a year after the last period is not typical. If you experience vaginal bleeding following menopause, consult your doctor.
Shifts in posture, wear to the joints, and muscle loss may cause people in their 50s to experience more frequent aches. Lower impact exercises like swimming or biking may be more comfortable than running.
Soreness after exercise can be more prominent. People in their 50s may want to focus on stretching and posture exercises, as there's a tendency to start stooping forward around this time.
Sweat glands tend to shrink and become less sensitive with age. It may be nice not to feel too sweaty, but sweat does play an important role in keeping the body cool.
It's important that people over 50 drink plenty of water and pay attention to signs of overheating. If you experience dizziness, cramps, or swelling on a hot day, find a cool place to rest and seek medical attention if symptoms don't stop.
A person in their 50s may notice that they are beginning to forget things or struggle with concentration. This can be concerning, but it's unlikely to be a serious medical issue.
Mild memory problems and lapses in concentration are a natural part of becoming older. Less sensitive hearing, changes in the brain, and sleep disruptions can all contribute to age-related memory loss.
While there are some unpleasant side effects of menopause, one of the beneficial effects is that migraines tend to be far less frequent. There seems to be a link between estrogen and migraines, though it's not fully understood. During menopause, estrogen production dramatically decreases, and 67% of people who experienced regular migraines before menopause experienced immediate and permanent relief afterward.
People of any gender may notice that bathroom trips become more frequent in their 50s, especially at night. This could be related to hormonal changes such as menopause or low testosterone.
In more serious cases, frequent urination can be caused by diseases like prostate cancer or diabetes. A slightly overactive bladder can be caused by many things, so it's important to discuss changes with a doctor and stay properly hydrated.
The hormones associated with menopause tend to make it harder for the vagina to lubricate. This can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable. Adding synthetic lubricants or taking more time before penetration can make sex easier and more pleasurable. Erectile dysfunction is also common. Testosterone production decreases throughout a person's 40s and 50s, leading to difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. Hormone therapy and medications may be able to help.
While some of the changes that people experience in their 50s are less fun than others, research suggests that people over 50 tend to feel a greater sense of contentment and optimism. Whether this is due to decreased stress, a wiser outlook on life, lifestyle changes, or some combination, people in their 50s often feel better than they did in their 40s.
Even more encouraging, this trend seems to increase through the coming decades, with 60- and 70-year-olds reporting even higher levels of happiness.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.