Common midlife health signs you shouldn't ignore, from memory loss to appetite changes

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
It’s important to distinguish between normal ageing and health warning signs. [Photo: Getty]

We all know things start to change as you grow older. 

Reaching your forties and fifties might come with greater confidence and a higher libido, but other age-related changes are less appealing. 

But, sometimes what’s thought to be a sign of ageing might actually indicate an underlying health condition.

Certain symptoms, such as sudden memory changes or problems emptying your bladder, should almost always be investigated rather than dismissed, stresses GP and aesthetic doctor Dr Jane Leonard.

While there’s usually no cause for alarm – and likely nothing at all wrong – it’s always best to be vigilant. 

READ MORE: The two ages we’re most happy at

“Whether your symptoms are in isolation or linked to anything else, it is not your job to put it down to ageing,” Dr Leonard tells Yahoo UK. “It is important to investigate thoroughly before making that conclusion for yourself.”

So, what are some of the health ailments that could hint at a more serious condition?

1. Needing to wee during the night

For some, one or more toilet trips during the night is completely normal. But if you’re not usually prone to waking needing to pee, something could be going on. 

“Sometimes the detruser muscle (so the muscle in your bladder wall) can become more sensitive and the capacity to hold urine can be less so you may find yourself getting up at night to pass urine,” explains Dr Leonard.

However, it can also point to a urine infection or, in men, prostate issues. The latter is very common in men over the age of 50, and 

If you are going to the toilet more often or feeling more urgency to go than usual , experiencing pain passing urine, or passing blood in your urine, you should see a doctor. 

An inability to complete empty your bladder should also be cause for concern, Dr Leonard adds.

Log on to Prostate Cancer UK to find out more information about prostate issues and treatment. 

2. Memory changes

Healthy brain ageing, which involves the inability to remember details like where objects are located, begins in your 40s, according to one study.

But, as much as we joke about having “senior moments” in middle age, it is important to differentiate between normal brain ageing and what’s known as “acute confusion”.

The latter, where you experience a very sudden change in your memory, should be discussed with your doctor. 

“If it is a more chronic issue of losing memory, or you are becoming forgetful, simple blood tests can be done to investigate causes. You may also be referred to the memory clinic, which can be helpful,” advises Dr Leonard.

Head to the Dementia UK website for further information about memory problems and testing. 

READ MORE: The age women start turning into their mothers

3. Appetite changes

Your appetite and food tastes may change as you age, with one study finding our sense of smell dwindles as we get older, leaving us less able to enjoy the flavours of what we eat.

However, if you experience a loss of appetite which leads to unintentional weight loss, it should be looked into. This can hint at anything from gastrointestinal problems to anxiety and depression.

4. Sleep

We’ve all heard the myth that you need less sleep as you get older, but Dr Leonard says this is not necessarily true of everyone: “Some people sleep less, other people need more sleep depending on their personal situations.”

However, if you are plagued by chronic insomnia, this should be a cause for concern, she adds.

“Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety often manifest as changes in sleep. See your doctor for further investigation.”

If you are experiencing mental health issues, you can get access to advice and someone to talk to on the Mind website.

5. Weight changes

Weight can fluctuate with age, with one survey finding men are most susceptible to gaining weight at the age of 44, while women experience this somewhat earlier at 38.

The danger of obesity in middle and old age is well documented, increasing risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease, according to a body of research.

However, if you lose a significant amount without changing your diet, this could also be an indication of a more serious problem, including certain cancers. A recent study identified unexplained weight loss as one of the most important indicators of cancer.

“Anyone who is losing weight unintentionally is concerning and something to take into consideration and be checked,” says Dr Leonard.

Adults in the England ages 40-74 are eligible for a health check-up. Designed to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia, the check helps finds ways to lower this risk. 

—Watch the latest videos from Yahoo—