Are you living your best life after 50? "We're always told to start saving for retirement when we're young because it will compound and our investment will grow," says Stephen Schimpff, MD, MACP, author of Longevity Decoded: The Seven Keys to Healthy Aging. "What I wrote about is the same message: If you start early, the benefits will compound over time." Here are five things undermining your health and happiness after 50. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Letting Friendships Fade Away
There is a wealth of research showing how important friendships and community are for our physical and mental wellbeing, especially after 50. "In later life, as our friends move away and pass away and our mobility declines, the risk of loneliness rises," says Karen Riddell JD. "So as we get older, it becomes crucial for us to invest time in social activities, join social groups and get to know the people we see on a regular basis whenever possible. Even simple social interactions with people at the local coffee shop or grocery store can make a big difference in a person's feeling of being connected and cared about."
Ignoring Bone Health
The risk of developing osteoporosis increases after 50, experts warn. "While the disease is more common in women, men are also at risk for osteoporosis," says Heather Buschman, PhD. "The misconception that osteoporosis is a 'women's disease' likely stems from the fact that women are at risk a little earlier in life, typically beginning in their 50s, right around menopause… The biggest cause for worry is this: roughly one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Yet women are far more likely to get tested for bone density and start taking calcium and vitamin D supplements after breaking a bone."
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
"According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking among seniors aged 50 and older is on the rise," says Joseph Nowinski PhD. "In fact, seniors make up the segment of the population for whom drinking has been increasing the most. Why might that be a problem? Because as we age, our bodies metabolize alcohol more slowly. That means that alcohol (a toxic agent and designated carcinogen) stays in the body longer, where it can exacerbate medical conditions such as hypertension, memory loss, diabetes, and neurological problems."
Exercise is incredibly important to protect heart and brain health after 50, doctors say. "Exercise is also one of the best things you can do to help prevent dementia and other cognitive changes," says Argye Hillis, MD.
Skipping COVID-19 Vaccinations/Boosters
People over 50 have an increased risk of developing serious COVID-19 complications, especially for those behind in vaccinations and boosters. "COVID-19 is not just hazardous for elderly people, it is extremely dangerous for people in their mid-fifties, sixties and seventies," says Andrew Levin, an economist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who estimates that for a 60-year-old, getting infected with the virus is more than 50 times more likely to be fatal than is driving a car. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.