If the recent rash of celebrity deaths has taught us anything, it’s that surviving your 50s can be hard.
Farrah Fawcett died last week at age 62, but was diagnosed with anal cancer in her late 50s. And Michael Jackson and Billy Mays shocked fans by their sudden deaths at age 50.
Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health for FOXNews.com, said the deaths of Jackson and Mays point to how important it is to maintain heart health during your 50s.
“Clearly the common theme here is the heart,” he said. “If your lifestyle is focused on a healthy heart, you’ll probably do just fine in your 50s. The ticker is the king and queen.”
With Jackson, stress and overuse of medications have been theorized as the possible causes of his cardiac arrest. Mays, according to a coroner, was suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which may have led to a thickening of his left ventricle and an enlarged heart.
Alvarez suggests that men and women in their 50s get annual physicals, and have their blood pressure checked every two years and their cholesterol checked every five years. And people who have been diagnosed as at risk for heart disease should have their cholesterol and blood pressure checked more often, he says.
Fifty-something’s should also have their body mass indexes (BMIs) monitored to make sure that they’re not carrying too much body fat. Mays, for example, appeared to be carrying extra belly fat, which can lead to heart disease.
Additionally, people in this age group should eat a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, refrain from smoking and heavy drinking and exercise on a regular basis.
Fawcett’s case highlights the need for women to have digital rectal exams performed annually by their gynecologists during their Pap smear screenings. Fawcett’s cancer, which is highly curable when detected early, was discovered in a late stage and ultimately spread to her liver.
“The digital rectal exam should be part of gynecological exam,” Alvarez said. “It’s really not done because some patients find it uncomfortable. But it at least should be discussed with doctors[because] inspecting of the lower third of rectum can be done with physical examination.”
Other screenings/medical recommendations to consider in your 50s:
— Colorectal cancer tests including fecal occult blood test (yearly) and colonoscopy (every 5 years)
— Prostate cancer screening for men
— Flu vaccine (annually)
— Dental cleaning (yearly)
— Bone density test
— Mammogram (every 1 to 2 years)
— Skin cancer check (every 3 months)
— Breast self examine (monthly)
— Blood sugar check (every 3 to 5 years)
— Vision check (every 2 years)
— Mental health (as needed)
— Hormone check (for women going through menopause)