A fat tummy and nine other body changes at 50 you shouldn’t ignore

It’s easy to blame every little health niggle on your age; to dismiss it and carry on. We're not old, right?! But there are some you shouldn’t just learn to live with, writes Christine Morgan

If you’re in your 50s you’ve probably noticed that your body is changing. Perhaps your metabolism isn’t what it used to be, or you may not have so much energy, or something is niggling you that didn’t used to. If you had 20:20 vision in your 20s and 30s, it’s probably not quite so perfect these days either. As for hormones… well, let’s not get started on that.

1. I’ve put weight on around my middle

An expanding belly can increase your risk of health problems including heart disease and diabetes. If you’re a man and your waist measures more than 94cm (37in), or a woman with a waist bigger than 80cm (31.5in), your risk of health problems is thought to be higher than normal.

What should you do? Plan what you’re going to do to lose the flab (see The five best sites for diet advice for some pointers) – then do it.

2. I have to pee more during the night

Women in their 50s naturally have weaker bladders and bladder muscles. It’s a consequence of lower oestrogen levels. But for men, frequent nighttime trips to the loo could suggest prostate problems. For both sexes, needing the loo more at night might also be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes.

What should you do? Go to your GP.

3. My vision is blurry

People often start wearing reading glasses in their 40s and 50s because the lenses in their eyes start to stiffen, making focusing on close-up objects tricky. But blurred vision can also be a symptom of diabetes, along with feeling very thirsty, very tired and having unexplained weight loss.

What should you do? See your GP. Regular eye tests can spot the early signs of diabetes, so don’t skip appointments with your optician.

4. My knee hurts (or hips, or fingers)

Aching, stiff knees, hips and finger joints suggest osteoarthritis, a condition that sends a million people to their GP every year, and usually develops in people over 50. But you may be able to slow it down if you catch it early using modern medical or holistic treatments.

What should you do? Consider taking joint health supplement such as fish oils or glucosamine. If you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, ask your GP about non-drug treatments such as physiotherapy.

5. I feel constantly worn out

Getting tired more easily than you used to isn’t just a sign you’re not quite a spring chicken any more. There are several health conditions that cause deep-rooted, long-lasting fatigue, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), anaemia, underactive thyroid, diabetes and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

What should you do? If you’re getting plenty of sleep but still feeling worn out, see your GP (read Tired all the time? This could be why to find out more).

6. I can’t get it up like I used to

Around half of all men between 40 and 70 have erection problems to some degree. While lifestyle changes such as losing weight and exercise can help, erectile dysfunction (ED) can also be a sign of something more serious, including heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

What should you do? See your GP if you have erections problems that last for several weeks.

7. I can’t stop burping

Heartburn and burping aren’t just annoying, they can also be a sign of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD, a digestive condition that’s more common after the age of 40. If you don’t treat it, you can suffer from complications, including damage to the lining of your oesophagus.

What should you do? Your GP can recommend treatments. Help yourself by eating four or five smaller meals instead of having three big meals a day. Keep a food diary, as keeping a record can help point out to you the potential food triggers.

8. My snoring is driving my partner crazy

Snoring is common in people aged between 40 and 60. But if you snore loudly, it could be a sign you have sleep apnoea, a condition that interrupts your breathing during sleep, increasing your risk of heart failure. Four per cent of men and two per cent of women in their 50s have sleep apnoea in the UK.

What should you do? See your GP for a diagnosis. Losing weight, cutting down on alcohol and giving up smoking may also help.

9. I keep saying ‘What?’

Hearing loss isn’t something that only happens in old age. Surveys suggest that many of us in our 50s have some deterioration in our hearing. Problem is, most people take up to 15 years to do anything about it. But the earlier you tackle it, the sooner you’ll prevent it getting worse.

What should you do? Not convinced you have a problem? Try this online hearing check from Action on Hearing Loss.

10. My legs ache when I exercise

Aching legs while walking or climbing stairs may well suggest you’re not fit. But in your 50s it can also be a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is caused by a blockage in your arteries, which restricts the blood flow to your legs. If you don’t do anything about it, your heart attack and stroke risk could increase.

What should you do? See your GP if you have leg pain regularly, especially if you smoke or you have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. 

How do you feel about changes in your body since you’ve turned 50? Tell us in the Comments below