7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50

Elderly man holding a slice of pizza and fries
Photo by Ljupco Smokovski / Shutterstock.com

As we age, our health risks increase. After all, none of us is going to live forever.

However, we all can improve the odds of a longer, more healthful life simply by avoiding the following deadly health mistakes people tend to make after age 50.

One note: Consult your doctor before undertaking some of the practices suggested in this article.

1. Letting social connections dwindle

Loneliness can kill. A 2018 study found that isolation may double a person’s risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.

The National Institute on Aging also notes that social isolation is linked to increased risk of depression, cognitive decline, obesity and a weakened immune system.

Men are at greater risk of suffering from social isolation. As we reported in “8 Surprising Facts That Nobody Tells You About Retirement,” a survey found just 48% of retired men living alone were very satisfied with the number of friends they had.

By contrast, 71% of retired women living alone were very satisfied with their number of social connections.

So, keep the ties that bind securely fastened as you move through your golden years.

2. Continuing to eat high-sodium foods

In most Western countries, individual blood pressure readings tend to rise with age, but in other nations, this does not happen. Why not?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says residents of the latter group of nations consume diets that are lower in salt.

About 90% of the sodium we consume comes from salt. In addition, 90% of Americans ages 2 and older consume too much sodium.

Reduce your sodium intake, and your blood pressure should fall within a couple of weeks, helping to lower your risk of deadly heart disease and stroke, the CDC says.

3. Putting off colorectal cancer screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, recommends that all adults 50 to 75 schedule colorectal cancer screening. (For adults who are older than 75, whether to screen is a more individualized decision, as risks and benefits can vary.)

Screening can find precancerous polyps, which are the main source of colorectal cancer. Screening also can find the disease itself in its early stages, when it is most treatable.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, colorectal screening is among a list of preventive services that generally are free for people who have health insurance and are between the ages of 50 and 75. That eliminates the last reason for avoiding something that could save your life.

4. Skipping a daily aspirin

Not everyone over 50 should take an aspirin every day. But it can make sense for those with certain potentially life-threatening health conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic:

“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin therapy if you’re age 50 to 59, you’re not at increased bleeding risk, and you have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke of 10 percent or greater over the next 10 years.”

Taking aspirin makes blood platelets less “sticky,” helping to prevent the clots that lead to heart attacks and strokes, explains Harvard Medical School.

The Mayo Clinic says people ages 60 to 69 should talk to their doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen. It also notes that more study is needed before recommending daily aspirin to people outside these age groups.

5. Avoiding the weight room

As we age, the risk of the bone disease osteoporosis increases. About 10 million people have osteoporosis, and another 44 million have low bone density, which puts them at risk for the disease, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

If you have osteoporosis, your bones are weaker and at greater risk of breaking. Some of these breaks — such as a hip fracture — can be life-threatening. Nearly one-quarter of people 50 and older die within a year of fracturing a hip.

Women are especially at risk for osteoporosis. In fact, 1 in 2 women will break a bone due to osteoporosis — which occurs more often in women than a heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is key to preventing osteoporosis. Also, weight-bearing exercise is an overlooked way to strengthen bones.

Using free weights, resistance bands or even your own body weight to exercise not only will strengthen muscles, but also can help you maintain bone density as you age.

6. Drinking too little water

Everyone knows hydration is important — but is it really a matter of life and death?

Yes. And children and older adults are most at risk for the most devastating consequences of dehydration.

The Mayo Clinic notes that older adults carry a lower volume of water in their bodies. In addition, they are more likely to take medications that boost the risk of dehydration. Finally, their sense of thirst is less acute, making it easy for them to forget the need to drink.

Severe dehydration can lead to:

  • Life-threatening heatstroke
  • Urinary and kidney problems
  • Seizures
  • Hypovolemic shock (low blood volume shock)

How much fluid do you need each day? It varies. However, as a general rule, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine give the following suggestions:

  • 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

Note that about of 20% of daily fluid intake typically comes from food.

The risk of dehydration increases significantly as you age, so get in the hydration habit now.

7. Not quitting smoking

Kicking the nicotine habit pays dividends at any age. Even if you are north of 50, you can still improve your health — and possibly save your life — by quitting now.

In fact, the improvements can be lightning fast. According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Your heart rate and blood pressure drop 20 minutes after quitting.
  • The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal 12 hours after quitting.
  • Circulation improves and your lung function increases two weeks to three months after quitting.

More improvements pile up over the next nine months. The upshot is that by one year after quitting, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a current smoker. Heart attack risk also drops dramatically.

Find the right financial adviser

Finding a financial adviser you can trust doesn't have to be hard. A great place to start is with SmartAsset's free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests.

If you're ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.

Read Next
9 Free Things That Used to Cost Us Money
9 Free Things That Used to Cost Us Money

Not everything is getting more expensive.

5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs

These free apps and websites can help you get cash back on groceries, shop more efficiently or squeeze the most from the ingredients you have on hand.

8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement
8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement

Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for — and adjust to — life in your golden years.

The 14 Most Deadly Car Models
The 14 Most Deadly Car Models

These vehicles are involved in fatal accidents at least twice as often as the average car.

5 Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
5 Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on these familiar purchases.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

8 Things That Are Free in August
8 Things That Are Free in August

As summer enters the home stretch, we’ve rounded up these sizzling freebies.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.