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What to Expect in Your 50s

Better sex. Fewer allergies. A more positive outlook

50s; woman; allergies; sneeze; goldenrod; smell

Stop and smell the flowers. People with allergies often have less severe symptoms as they age. — Photo by Craig Cutler

Ramp Up Your Immunity

The Good News: Allergies, which result from an overreactive immune system, may become less severe, primarily because your immune system isn't as sensitive, says James Stankiewicz, M.D., chair of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago.

The Not-So-Good News: A less aggressive immune response means you're more susceptible to getting sick. Protect yourself by shedding excess pounds, eating well and exercising.

What's Up With That? Your response to vaccines decreases with age, leaving you even more vulnerable to illnesses like flu and pneumonia. You may be able to boost the effectiveness of your vaccines by getting enough sleep: A new study found that those who slept less than seven hours a night produced fewer antibodies after receiving a vaccine.

What's Ahead: At 60 you should get the shingles vaccine; at 65 you'll need a shot against pneumococcal disease.

Take Fewer "Nighttime Trips"

The Good News: If you're generally healthy, your urological system likely works just about as well as it did when you were younger.

The Not-So-Good News: By their 50s, some 15 to 20 percent of people get up at least twice in the night to urinate, says Ryan P. Terlecki, M.D., assistant professor of urology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. Try decreasing fluids after 6 p.m. and avoiding caffeinated beverages and alcohol. If you're on diuretics for high blood pressure, speak to your doctor about taking your pill in the morning. Stress incontinence — urine loss when coughing or sneezing — affects about a third of women in their 50s. It's often chalked up to vaginal deliveries and the decline of estrogen, says Terlecki, but you can reduce incontinence symptoms through training. Ask your doctor about medications and Kegel exercises, which strengthen muscles around your uterus, bladder and rectum.

What's Up With That? More than a third of men over 50 experience moderate to severe symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland, called benign prostatic hyperplasia. Symptoms include difficulty urinating, though medications like tamsulosin and finasteride can help.

What's Ahead: Urge incontinence becomes more frequent in women older than 60. More than half of men in their 70s will have prostate issues. Your best move: Stay hydrated and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which have a high water content.

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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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