Turning 50? Improve your health and well-being with these 4 tips

The beginning of a new decade is often a time to reflect on our lives, it turns out particularly for those who reach middle age.

The average remaining life expectancy for 50-year-old American men is 36 and for women, it is 32 [1].

A public health professor with expertise in health promotion began thinking about ways to celebrate this milestone birthday in a healthy way [2]. At 50, four things become more important – beyond what’s beneficial at any age, like staying active, eating well and getting enough sleep [3].

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A colonoscopy is a good idea

Getting a colonoscopy is not the most fun piece of advice, but it’s essential. There will be more than 105,000 new cases of colon cancer, more than 45,000 new cases of rectal cancer and over 50,000 deaths from colorectal cancer in 2023 alone [4].

As a result, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death for both men and women [5]. If the cancer is detected early before spreading, the survival rate is high [6]. As cancer advances, the survival rate drops precipitously.

During a colonoscopy, a scope is used to examine the rectum and colon under sedation or anesthesia. A doctor can also detect swollen tissue and ulcers along with cancerous or potentially malignant polyps. The presence of these may indicate potential problems and necessitate more frequent monitoring.

Those at low risk of colorectal cancer can perform less invasive tests at home, such as Cologuard [7]. In this case, a stool sample must be collected and mailed to a lab. If you are uncertain which screening is right for you, you should discuss this with your doctor.

The US Preventive Services Task Force, a national panel of experts, changed its recommendation in 2021 to initiate colorectal cancer screening at age 45 for low-risk individuals [8]. Because of this, insurance companies must cover the cost of screenings for anyone aged 45 and older [9].

High-risk individuals should get screened even earlier. An individual at high risk of colorectal cancer has an inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of the disease. 

A young person can also develop colorectal cancer. For example, Chadwick Boseman, the star of “Black Panther,” passed away from colon cancer at the age of 43 in 2020 [10].

Vaccinate against shingles

Getting chickenpox was a rite of passage for many who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. Chickenpox virus can remain dormant in your body for the rest of your life and can reemerge as shingles [11].

Shingles vaccines are highly effective, which is good news. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults 50 and older should get two shots, two to six months apart, which prevents shingles 97% of the time [13].

Despite not usually being life-threatening, shingles can be extremely painful and cause a rash. Getting shingles also significantly increases stroke risk [12].

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Increase retirement savings and look for discounts

The average retirement age in the US in 2022 was 61 [14]. In the same study, it was found that the average person believed they would be able to retire at age 66. After 1960, complete retirement benefits don’t kick in until age 67, leaving a gap of six years before retirement.

Turning 50? Improve your health and well-being with these 4 tips

It is possible to retire earlier than you had planned for various reasons, but involuntary ones, like a job loss, an injury or illness, can be financially burdensome. In general, you need about 80% of your pre-retirement income in retirement to be financially comfortable. All forms of income, including Social Security benefits, pensions and investments, are included in this category.

You can start making catch-up contributions when you turn 50 if you are behind on your savings. An extra US$7,500 is available to employees who are 50 or older with 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b) plans. 

This money grows tax-free and can assist in providing an extra cushion when you retire. Additionally, an additional $1,000 can be contributed to individual retirement accounts and Roth IRAs at age 50.

Several hotels, restaurants, and retail outlets offer senior discounts starting at age 50. You can find reliable and current discounts by joining AARP [15]. 

It is a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of people over the age of 50. Hundreds of discounts are available with membership for under $20 a year. 

Make sure your paperwork is in order

No matter what age you are, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected – at any age. Among people ages 55 to 64, the mortality rate is double that of those ages 45 to 54 [16].

It’s a good time to decide how you want your affairs handled. This includes a will, living will, and durable power of attorney, according to the National Institute on Aging.

The purpose of a will is to describe how your financial assets should be distributed after your death. The majority of Americans, however, do not have a will. For wills and bequests, there are several online tools that can help.

If you are unable to communicate your wishes, a living will specifies the type of care you would like or do not want. When you are incapable of making health care decisions, a durable power of attorney allows someone else to do so. The power of attorney ends if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.

It may seem like a lengthy list of things to do, but breaking them down into separate tasks makes it easier to manage. 

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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/vsrr023.pdf
[2] https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=87v4Nk4AAAAJ&hl=en
[3] https://theconversation.com/turning-50-here-are-4-things-you-can-do-to-improve-your-health-and-well-being-198075
[4] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
[5] https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/common.html#
[6] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html
[7] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/colon-cancer-screening-decisions-whats-the-best-option-and-when-202206152762
[8] https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.6238
[9] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/screening-coverage-laws.html
[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/movies/chadwick-boseman-dead.html
[11] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
[12] https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiac405
[13] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html
[14] https://news.gallup.com/poll/394943/retiring-planning-retire-later.aspx
[15] https://www.aarp.org/membership/benefits/all-offers-a-z/?intcmp=GLOBAL-HDR-LNK-CLK-BENEFITS-UXDIA
[16] https://www.statista.com/statistics/241572/death-rate-by-age-and-sex-in-the-us/

Photograph: Masson-Simon/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.