Article at a Glance
- 50-year-old men experience many physical changes as a result of aging.
- Hormone levels, bone density, muscle mass, eyesight, hair color, skin cells, cognition, and immunity all go through noticeable changes after age 50.
- Many age-related symptoms can be addressed with research-backed treatments.
Turning 50 comes with a myriad of physical changes in men that can lead to stress, anxiety, and confusion.
The following are some of the age-related physical changes specific to 50-year-old men that you may be experiencing. Included are some research-backed ways to prevent, slow down, or even reverse them.
The male equivalent to menopause, called andropause, is less widely known than the female version. While in females there are clear signs that indicate hormonal changes, men’s hormonal changes are less obvious. Nevertheless, there are significant alterations in hormone levels, particularly after the age of 50.
Andropause involves a reduction in testosterone, androgen deficiency, and hypogonadism. Testosterone is a hormone involved in libido, mental and physical energy, muscle mass maintenance, and regulation of the fight-or-flight response.
Symptoms of andropause include:
- Low energy
- Drop in libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Reduced muscle mass
- Lowered self-esteem
- Increased body fat
In order to diagnose andropause, health care providers can check testosterone levels. You can also check your own hormone levels in the comfort of your home using self-quantification kits, like the ZRT Test Kit [R].
If low testosterone levels are found, one can make lifestyle changes to increase testosterone levels, like increasing exercise [R, R, R, R]. Men with low testosterone should also seek a qualified provider to evaluate whether there is a need for hormone replacement therapy.
Osteoporosis is characterized by reduced bone density, predisposing individuals to increased risk of fractures. Hormonal changes that occur with age are thought to contribute to bone loss. This is expecially noted in the decline in steroid hormones like testosterone and estradiol [R].
Fortunately, there are solutions. Calcium, in combination with vitamin D supplements, has been shown to improve bone density in men, as have regular weight-bearing exercise and resistance training [R, R].
Decline in Mental Function
The brain is a complicated structure that changes dramatically with age. These changes increase the risk of developing age-related mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
Mental sharpness starts to decline in the mid-40s [R]. In a study aimed to evaluate early cognitive decline, 5,198 men and 2,192 women between the ages of 45 and 70 were observed over a 10-year period and found to exhibit a steady decline in memory and reasoning [R].
To overcome this decline in cognition, there are several lifestyle changes one can make. Exercise has been shown to increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which leads to enhanced cognitive functioning [R]. In addition, switching from a western diet high in simple sugars and saturated fat to a Mediterranean diet high in fruit and vegetables, with moderate fish and dairy intake and low meat consumption, has been associated with a slower cognitive decline [R].
Cardiovascular disease takes one life nearly every minute, in the United States alone [R]. This makes it the leading cause of death in the United States. Cardiovascular disease refers to all conditions that lead to obstruction or narrowing of blood vessels, causing heart attack, chest pain, or stroke.
Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease. It often starts in the teens and is characterized by a build-up of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), fat, calcium, and fibrous tissue on blood vessel walls, creating plaques. These plaques narrow vessels and impede blood flow. In addition, they can break off, release into the bloodstream, and completely block blood vessels, obstructing oxygen and leading to a heart attack, stroke, or ischemia (death of body tissues) [R].
Cardiovascular disease risk rises steadily and sharply with age, and therefore, maintenance of the cardiovascular system with age is crucial to longevity.
Age, however, is not the defining factor for atherosclerosis. High blood pressure, high BMI, smoking, lack of exercise, and a diet high in trans fats all contribute to the formation of plaques [R].
To try to keep cardiovascular disease at bay, many turn to omega-3 fatty acids, known for their well-documented ability to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels [R]. The body does not produce these fatty acids, so they have to be obtained through diet.
Decline in Eyesight
Time also takes its toll on the eyes. Common age-related eye conditions include dry eye, cataracts, and far-sightedness.
There are several supplements one can take to prevent or reduce the extent of eye disease. For example, omega-3 supplements have been shown to improve dry eye syndrome [R]. In addition, long-term use of multivitamins in middle-aged men was shown to significantly decrease the risk of cataract development [R].
Decline in Immunity
Various parts of the immune system go through age-associated alterations. One notable change that becomes substantial by age 50 is the reduction of naive T-cells, which fight off new infections [R]. As a result, older individuals are increasingly unable to protect themselves against bacteria and viruses.
Although graying hair depends on multiple factors, at least half of the population has a significant amount of gray hair by the age of 50 [R].
Melanocytes are the cells found in hair follicles that produce melanin, the compound that gives our hair its color. With age, stem cells in hair follicles halt their melanocyte production. The gradual drop in melanin turns hair gray or unpigmented [R].
Supplementing with vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, can help prevent gray hair. A diet rich in vitamin B5, including foods like egg yolks, whole grains, carrots, and brewer’s yeast, can help as well [R].
During your 50’s, the loss of muscle, bone, and fat under the skin, as well as changes in collagen and elastin make fine lines and wrinkles appear more dramatic. This is particularly enhanced if you have smoked or tanned significantly.
Retinol, also known as vitamin A₁, has been proven to repair damaged skin by accelerating cell turnover. One study showed that four weeks of topical retinol treatments increased epidermal thickness and upregulated the expression of collagen, which generally declines with age [R].
Another increasingly popular skin rejuvenation treatment is exosome-based facials. This anti-aging treatment uses exosomes, small vesicles released from stem cells that contain compounds with regenerative properties. They enhance skin’s appearance by inducing the production of collagen and stimulating the proliferation of fibroblasts. The fibroblasts are the cells that help the skin recover from injury [R].
Sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass, affects 10% of people over the age of 50 and becomes more common with age [R]. Although it is a natural consequence of aging, many of the factors that influence the development of sarcopenia are controllable.
After the age of 50, men tend to experience a loss of strength at a rate of 15% per decade [R]. Much of this loss of strength is due to sarcopenia, which contributes to age-associated loss of independence and physical performance.
The causes of sarcopenia are not clearly understood but seem to occur as a result of an imbalance between anabolism (muscle production) and catabolism (muscle breakdown). In sarcopenia, the rate of muscle protein breakdown exceeds that of protein synthesis, leading to a loss of muscle mass over time.
The process of muscle protein production and breakdown occurs as a result of nutritional and hormonal factors. Supplementation with protein or branched chain amino acids can help overcome the age-associated muscle loss and eventual sarcopenia [R].
In addition to insufficient protein intake, a sedentary lifestyle also contributes to a drop in muscle protein synthesis and therefore increases the risk for sarcopenia. So, another way to prevent muscle loss is through regular exercise, and resistance training in particular [R].
In addition, growth hormone replacement therapy has been shown to increase lower body muscle strength in healthy males [R].
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
Hormonal changes associated with age also lead to the enlargement of the prostate, referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition leads to several clinical manifestations such as frequent or difficult urination. Approximately half of all 50-year-old men have begun to develop BPH [R].
There are many treatments for BPH, so men with symptoms of BPH should see their provider for diagnosis and treatment.
Physical Changes at 50 Conclusion
When you’ve lived for half a century, it’s natural to feel some changes. Understanding the key mechanisms behind these changes is crucial in allowing you to make appropriate lifestyle choices to help postpone or mitigate their effects.
Please check out our directory of health and longevity clinics for providers who can help you with age-related changes you may be experiencing.
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