Men: Stay Healthy at 50+

2014 Update

Use this information to help you stay healthy at ages 50 and above. Learn which screening tests you need and when to get them, which medicines may prevent diseases, and steps you can take for good health.

Get the Screenings You Need

Screenings are tests that look for diseases before you have symptoms. Blood pressure checks and tests for high blood cholesterol are examples of screenings.

You can get some screenings, such as blood pressure readings, in your doctor's office. Others, such as colonoscopy, a test for colon cancer, need special equipment, so you may need to go to a different office.

After a screening test, ask when you will see the results and who you should talk to about them.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. If you are between the ages of 65 and 75 and have ever been a smoker, (smoked 100 or more cigarettes in your lifetime), talk to your health care team about being screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). AAA is a bulging in your abdominal aorta, your largest artery. An AAA may burst, which can cause dangerous bleeding and death.

An ultrasound, a painless procedure in which you lie on a table while a technician slides a medical device over your abdomen, will show whether an aneurysm is present.

Colon Cancer. If you are 75 or younger, get a screening test for colorectal cancer. Several different tests—for example, a stool test or a colonoscopy—can detect this cancer. Your doctor or nurse can help you decide which is best for you. If you are between the ages of 76 and 85, talk to your doctor or nurse about whether you should continue to be screened.

Depression. Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. Talk to your doctor or nurse about being screened for depression especially if during the last 2 weeks:

  • You have felt down, sad, or hopeless.
  • You have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things.

Diabetes. Get screened for diabetes (high blood sugar) with a blood test if you have high blood pressure or take medication for high blood pressure.

Diabetes can cause problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves, and other body parts.

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Get screened one time for HCV infection if:

  • You were born between 1945 and 1965.
  • You have ever injected drugs.
  • You received a blood transfusion before 1992.

If you currently are an injection drug user, you should be screened regularly.

You know your body better than anyone else. Always tell your doctor or nurse about any changes in your health, including your vision and hearing. Ask them about being checked for any condition you are concerned about, not just the ones here. If you are wondering about diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or skin cancer, for example, ask about them.

 

High Blood Cholesterol. Have your blood cholesterol checked regularly with a blood test. High blood cholesterol increases your chance of heart disease, stroke, and poor circulation.

High Blood Pressure. Have your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years. High blood pressure can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure.

HIV. If you are 65 or younger, get screened for HIV. If you are older than 65, ask your doctor or nurse if you should be screened.

Lung Cancer: Talk to your doctor or nurse about getting screened for lung cancer if you are between the ages of 55 and 80, have a 30 pack-year smoking history, and smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years. (Your pack-year history is the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day times the number of years you have smoked.) Know that quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health.

Lung cancer can be detected with low-dose computed tomography (LCT). For LCT, you lie on a table while a large machine passes over you to scan your lungs.

Overweight and Obesity. The best way to learn if you are overweight or obese is to find your body mass index (BMI). You can find your BMI by entering your height and weight into a BMI calculator, such as the one available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm

A BMI between 18.5 and 25 indicates a normal weight. Persons with a BMI of 30 or higher may be obese. If you are obese, talk to your doctor or nurse about getting intensive counseling and help with changing your behaviors to lose weight. Overweight and obesity can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Get Preventive Medicines If You Need Them

Aspirin. Your doctor or nurse can help you decide whether taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack is right for you.

Vitamin D to Avoid Falls. If you are 65 or older and have a history of falls, mobility problems, or other risks for falling, ask your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement to help reduce your chances of falling. Exercise and physical therapy may also help.

Immunizations:

  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Get a shot for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. Get a tetanus booster if it has been more than 10 years since your last shot.
  • If you are 60 or older, get a shot to prevent shingles.
  • If you are 65 or older, get a pneumonia shot.
  • Talk with your health care team about whether you need other vaccinations. You can also find which ones you need by going to: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

Take Steps to Good Health

Be physically active and make healthy food choices. Learn how at http://www.healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/nutrition-and-physical-activity.

Get to a healthy weight and stay there. Balance the calories you take in from food and drink with the calories you burn off by your activities.

Be tobacco free. For tips on how to quit, go to http://www.smokefree.gov. To talk to someone about how to quit, call the National Quitline: 1-800-QUITNOW (784-8669).

If you drink alcohol, have no more than two drinks per day if you are 65 or younger. If you are older than 65, have no more than one drink a day. A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Get More Information on Good Health

Check out these Federal Government Web sites:

Healthfinder.gov. Guides and tools for healthy living, an encyclopedia of health-related topics, health news, and more. Go to: http://www.healthfinder.gov.

Healthy Men. An AHRQ Web site for on health for men. Go to: http://www.ahrq.gov/healthymen.

MedlinePlus. Health information from government agencies and health organizations, including a medical encyclopedia and health tools. Go to: http://www.medlineplus.gov.

Questions Are the Answer. Information on how to get involved in your health care by asking questions, understanding your condition, and learning about your options. Go to: http://www.ahrq.gov/questionsaretheanswer.

If you don't have access to a computer, talk to your local librarian about health information in the library.

Sources. This information is based on research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF is an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force makes recommendations based on rigorous reviews of the scientific evidence to help primary care professionals and patients decide together whether a preventive service is right for a patient's needs. Task Force members are practicing doctors and nurses in the fields of family medicine, general internal medicine, gynecology/obstetrics, nursing, pediatrics, and preventive medicine, as well as health behavior specialists. AHRQ provides scientific, administrative, and dissemination support to the USPSTF. 

For more information about the USPSTF, go to: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org.

Current as of March 2014
Internet Citation: Men: Stay Healthy at 50+: 2014 Update. March 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/men-over-50.html