After age 50, many of us become more aware of our health, simply because bodily changes like aches and pains can be hard to ignore. But many health risks are all too easy to overlook—and that can lead to major problems down the road. If you're over 50, these are signs that your health (and life) may be in danger. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
You Haven't Been Vaccinated Against COVID
In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, 95 percent of those who died were over age 50. Effective vaccines have slashed the rates of severe illness and death among all age groups, but particularly in the most vulnerable. If you're over 50, get vaccinated against COVID, and follow up with any recommended boosters. Early research from Israel has found that in people over 60, booster shots provided four times more protection against COVID infection—and five to six times more protection against serious illness and hospitalization—than the first two shots alone.
You've Skipped Other Regular Vaccines
Our immune systems weaken with age, and older people have a higher risk of being hospitalized or dying from diseases that only minorly afflict the young, including the flu. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone. Ask your healthcare provider about other routine vaccines that are right for you, including those for shingles and pneumococcal pneumonia.
You Haven't Checked Your Blood Pressure Recently
High blood pressure is one of the most serious health risks there is. Over time, it can damage blood vessels, increasing your chances of a heart attack, stroke, erectile dysfunction, kidney problems, and dementia—just to name a few. What's more: According to Harvard Medical School, more than 70 percent of men older than 55 technically have high blood pressure, defined as a measurement higher than 120/80. Get your blood pressure checked every year, and follow your doctor's advice about improving it if necessary.
You Haven't Scheduled This Screening
If you're 50 or older and haven't started routine colon cancer screening, call your doctor today. Seriously. Experts now recommend starting routine screening at age 45—not 50, the previous guidance—because cases of colon cancer are rising among younger people. (The reason why is currently unknown.) Colon cancer is highly curable in its initial stages, and early detection is the best hope for a good outcome.
You're Ignoring These Symptoms
Ovarian cancer is known as a silent killer because early detection is difficult—there is no routine screening test, and the first symptoms can be vague and easily overlooked. According to the American Cancer Society, most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. If you have ovaries, it's important to be alert to potential symptoms, which can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, or feeling full soon after eating. If you have a family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer, tell your doctor, who may recommend more frequent screening.
RELATED: Sure Signs You Have Ovarian Cancer
You're Drinking Too Much
If you've been knocking one back—or many more than one—more often these days, you're not alone. Alcohol use has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and experts are increasingly worried about people over 50: Studies have found that older adults are binge drinking more than ever. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and at least seven types of cancer, the incidence of which all increase with age.
How to Stay Safe Out During the COVID Pandemic
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, 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.