In our youth-crazed society, it’s easy to feel that once you hit 50, it’s all downhill with wrinkles, aches and pain, and worse.
The fact is, research shows that there are aspects of health that actually get better with age.
Take sleep, for example. It’s long been thought that the quality of sleep declines with age. But that’s not true. In a major study reported in the journal Sleep, researchers queried more than 150,000 Americans about their sleep quality and found the older we get the more satisfied we are with the quality of our sleep.
Stephanie Haridopolos, M.D., a board-certified family practitioner in Melbourne, Fla., notes a variety of other conditions also improve with age.
Fewer Allergies: If you’re wheezing and sneezing now, you may be doing less of it when you get older. Sensitivity to seasonal allergies, like hay fever, tends to ebb as we grow older. This is because your body develops less of the allergic antibody, IgE, which triggers the allergic reaction. "You can develop allergies at any age, but, by the time you are in your 50s, you’re often less bothered by them," says Dr. Haridopolos, vice president of the Brevard County Medical Society.
Fewer Colds: Does it seem like kids pass colds back and forth, while you remain sneeze free? It’s not your imagination. According to the experts, after the age of 50, the average person has one or two colds each year, compared to two or three for 20-year-olds and many more for children. This is because youngsters are getting sick from get viruses to which they’ve never been exposed. But as you get older, your immune system has built up antibodies to a greater variety of pathogens. Says Dr. Haridopolos: "When you reach your 50s, you’re likely to catch fewer colds because your immune system is at its peak."
Fewer Migraines: Anyone who gets them will tell you that migraines are among the worst types of pain. But there’s good news: Statistics show that migraines tend to decline as we age, especially for women. More women get migraines than men. The headaches often begin as women reach puberty. Some 60 percent of women say the onset of their migraines is correlated to their menstrual cycle. "With menopause, hormone levels — especially estrogen — decreases, so many women can look forward to relief," says Dr. Haridopolos.
More Happiness: Perhaps older people sleep better because they’re happier. Sound crazy? It’s not. In fact, a large Gallup survey asked more than 340,000 people nationwide to rank their sense of personal well being on a scale from one to 10. The survey found that, while people feel pretty good about themselves at the age of 18, this feeling of happiness declines until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and their feeling of happiness and contentment grows. In fact, by the age of 85, they are even more delighted with life than they were at 18. Psychological ailments often ebb as we age.
"When people reach their 50s, those who got panic attacks experience less of them, and depression and anxiety levels all get better, too," says Dr. Haridopolos. "So people are more emotionally stable and contented all around."
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