Men’s health: What should I worry about when I’m in my… 50s?

Men's Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Jan 3, 2022

So, you’ve bypassed the midlife crisis and now you’re looking forward to finding a place near a beach and spending what’s left of your 401(k). But just because life might be slowing down, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your health or your efforts to prevent disease.

“Once you reach 50, it’s important to talk with your doctor and update your family history,” said W. Mark Hinds, MD, a family medicine doctor on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Hillcrest Marketplace. “That helps us determine your risk level for a lot of diseases.”

Colorectal cancer screening

As we age, our risk for colon cancer increases. Of the types of cancer that affect both men and women, colorectal (colon) cancer is the third most common. It is also the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Because this risk is so high, doctors recommend that you have a colonoscopy beginning at age 45.

“A colonoscopy is not only important—it’s a low-risk procedure that could provide big benefits,” Dr. Hinds said. “I encourage my male patients to get one once they turn 45. Plus, if they don’t have polyps, it will be 10 years before they need another.”

But if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, he said, then it will be scheduled for more often, likely once every five years.

Prostate cancer risks

Not only are people over 50 at higher risk for developing colon cancer, but men in later life have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Your risk factors will determine whether you should get a prostate screening, Dr. Hinds said, so it’s important to have that conversation with your doctor.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) also recommends that all men talk with their doctor so they can make an informed decision about getting a prostate screening. Certain groups have additional risk factors, as well. If you’re African-American, for example, or if your father or a brother had prostate cancer before they were 65, then you should start talking with your doctor about screenings around age 45, the ACS suggests.

It’s not always easy to discuss your prostate with your doctor, but Dr. Hinds said patients should never be afraid to talk to their doctor about screenings or problems they may be having.

“Please don’t hold back any family history or symptoms when you’re talking to your doctor,” he said. “Be honest, because that information is critical for determining what testing or treatment you may need.”

Your heart health

Don’t forget, either, that as you age you need to pay attention to their risk for heart disease and other cardiovascular issues.

“Based on blood pressure and cholesterol, your doctor can calculate an American Heart Association risk percentage for 10 years for symptomatic cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Hinds. “That can be helpful for determining statin medicines for cholesterol.”

Men need to pay attention to their diet, and it’s a good idea to limit red meat as well as avoid fried foods and sugar, he said. Exercise is important, too.

“And regular dental checkups,” Dr. Hinds said. “I don’t think I’ve had a patient with heart disease who didn’t also have gum disease.”

Don’t hold back with your doctor

It’s not just your family history about these conditions that you need to talk about, Dr. Hinds said. It’s also any symptoms or medical problems you have or think you’re having. There are a number of issues men can start experiencing in their 50s that can be difficult to talk about, such as depression and erectile dysfunction (ED).

“ED is really, really, really common, and probably way more common than we discuss,” he said. “Before we had drugs for ED, we never talked about it.”

But ED is not a natural part of aging. It can also be a sign of other health problems, like a clogged blood vessel or nerve damage from diabetes.

Depression may also be common in older patients because of stressful or sad situations, like losing a loved one or transitioning from work to retirement. But when a person’s depression interferes with daily life, it could be a medical condition that needs to be treated.

“It’s important to be honest with your doctor so the appropriate testing and treatment can be done,” Dr. Hinds said.

For men approaching or in their 50s, there are several key health issues to pay attention to. But the most important thing is open and honest communication with your physician.

Find out more about men’s health, or find a physician near you.

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