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A man in your 50s? Nutrition, exercise and overall health advice you should know

Avoid the middle-age spread as it brings numerous health issues with it

Every decade brings its own physical and mental needs and challenges.

So how do we make the most of each one? Áilín Quinlan talks to the experts about the big issues for men in their 50s in terms of everything from exercise to high blood pressure.


"Blood pressure is a silent disease in many ways. We know there's a huge dietary component to this condition, and that there's far too much salt in the Irish diet," says consultant nutritionist Gaye Godkin. "Much of this salt is coming from processed meats, fast foods and crisps. This is a massive issue and men need to become aware of how much salt they're consuming every day."

Men in their 50s need to consciously incorporate beetroot, aubergines and red cabbage into their diet, she says, because these foods have naturally occurring nitrates which support the lining of the blood vessels.


“Cardiovascular disease is a silent killer. Men need to be aware of the fats they are eating,” she says.

Men should now also focus on replacing the trans- and processed fats found in everything from margarine and deep-fried foods to pastries, processed cakes and doughnuts, with good fats. These include olive oil and foods containing mono-unsaturated fats such as avocados, almonds and pumpkin seeds, which are cardio-protective.


Men in their 50s need to exercise to combat the arrival of visceral fat around the middle which is often known as middle-aged spread, urges Dr Brian Higgins, Galway GP and TV3's in-house doctor.

“Unfortunately, men in this age group tend to develop a paunch. Visceral fat around the belly or middle can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Ensure that you take sufficient exercise to offset your diet,” he advises. “I recommend moderate intensity exercise daily or a minimum of five days a week in something that you enjoy, so that your exercise regime becomes an integral part of daily life.”

Remember, he adds, regular exercise also helps prevent, and can alleviate, back pain in all age groups.

Potential health issues

“The number one health issue for men in this age group is middle-aged spread,” declares Dr Fiona O’Reilly, a Cork GP and expert in lifestyle medicine. “The metabolism slows down. Men can also become less physically active and more stressed. They may also consume more alcohol.”

Increased abdominal girth increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes which is, in turn, a high risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney, eye and nerve disease as well as involving an increased risk of colon and prostate cancer, she warns.

“It’s crucial to keep your weight down through exercise and appropriate nutrition,” O’Reilly emphasises, adding that men in this age group should also ensure they get the appropriate blood tests to check their risk of diabetes and high cholesterol.

Along with this, if you have a family history of heart disease, now is a good time to have a calcium score test. This is a none-invasive test which indicates your risk of heart attack.

Falling testosterone levels can be another issue for males in this age group. “This can result in low mood, low motivation and a drop in libido. Get your testosterone levels checked because if they are low, medication is available to boost them.”

Last but not least, says O’Reilly, many men find it difficult to have or maintain an erection from their 50s onwards.

“This may be due to stress, back pain, diabetes, alcohol, a heart condition or medication. This can deeply affect confidence. It helps to visit the GP who can arrange tests and medication to help.”

Mental wellbeing

A big pitfall here can be men's reaction to the natural physical changes which take place in their bodies around this time, explains mental health specialist, GP and best-selling author Dr Harry Barry.

“Men can start to lose their hair, experience problems around erectile dysfunction, put on weight and develop a paunch,” he says, adding that they may avoid intimacy with their partner and be too ashamed to consult their GP about their erectile dysfunction [ED]. Regular exercise, a good diet and a consultation with their GP can be of help here, he advises.

“All of these things can damage their sense of self, and many can become anxious, stressed and down about all of this. It’s important to work hard in terms of fitness and eating properly and to consult the doctor about any ED problems,” he says, pointing out that men can now also seek assistance about hair loss.

Tip for making the most of your decade

Fight the dreaded mid-life paunch by committing to one sugar-free day weekly and instituting a 20-minute daily walk to kick-start your metabolism and boost your adrenal glands, suggests Dr Fiona O’Reilly.

“These release too much adrenaline and cortisol as a response to stress which contributes to high blood pressure and diabetes,” she says, adding that these initiatives will also boost your testosterone levels and help keep you young.

Health & Fitness advice through the Decades
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- Men in their 20s
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- Men in their 60s

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- Women in their 80s
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