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What to Expect in Your 50s

Better sex. Fewer allergies. A more positive outlook

Keep Your Heart Strong

The Good News: If you're healthy and active, you will likely get a lot more miles out of your ticker. It's never too late to do your part: Grab your swimsuit, bike or running shoes and get moving.

The Not-So-Good News: Your heart's walls are getting thicker and its valves are stiffer. Also, many people in their 50s will start to develop the first signs of heart disease. Thanks to new treatments and the mitigation of risk factors like high cholesterol, though, the death rate from heart disease declined 27.8 percent from 1997 to 2007.

What's Up With That? Have you noticed a skipped beat or a racing heart? It could be atrial fibrillation, a type of heart arrhythmia that becomes more common with age. Since it can increase the risk of stroke, mention it to your doctor. You should also tell him or her if you're experiencing unusual fatigue, weakness or dizziness when exercising.

What's Ahead: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people 65 or older. Experts suggest that exercise cuts the risk.

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74 percent of men and 70 percent of women say their sex lives are better now than at 40. — Photo by Craig Cutler

Improve Your Sex Life

The Good News: Sex after 50 can be better than it was during the child-raising years: You've got more time and fewer distractions, and you're not exhausted from day-to-day child-care issues.

The Not-So-Good News: Sex-related hormones — estrogen and progesterone in women, testosterone in men — are declining in your 50s, although these decreases are less likely to diminish your sex life than are bad habits like smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.

What's Up With That? Rates of erectile dysfunction (ED) increase with age; among men with the condition, 26 percent first experienced symptoms in their 50s. Research shows that the Mediterranean diet — rich in fish, nuts, vegetables and olive oil — helps, particularly for men at risk of cardiovascular disease. Making lifestyle changes like exercising and not smoking also can help.

What's Ahead: Vaginal dryness becomes more common as estrogen levels decline. But lubricants are effective, as are prescription estrogen creams and tablets.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Walt Handelsman adapts a  classic Allan Sherman tune for wry take on kids moving back home.

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