As their careers, and their children are growing

As people age, new health issues can arise. Watch this lesson to find out more about the two most common causes of death in middle age – cancer and cardiovascular disease – and how fitness and personality can combat them.

Middle Adulthood

Evan is living the good life. He’s 45 and a high profile CEO of a company. He makes great money and is surrounded by people who admire and respect him.

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But Evan is noticing signs of physical aging. His hair is starting to thin, and he’s gained some weight over the years, so now he’s got a pretty big belly. He feels sore when he wakes up in the mornings, and most scary of all, his doctor recently told him that he is at a high risk for heart disease.Evan is in middle adulthood, also called middle age, which is the time of life between age 40 and age 65.

During this time in life, most people are at the highest point in their careers, and their children are growing up and becoming adolescents. This is the time in life that (for most people) precedes retirement and an empty nest.Middle adulthood is also a time when the physical signs of aging start to occur. Graying or thinning hair, weight gain, less coordination and loss of vision or hearing are all signs of aging that appear in middle age. Unfortunately, it’s not just the visible signs of aging that increase in middle adulthood; disease does, as well.

Let’s look at two common diseases that can lead to death in middle age and the personality traits that can affect them.


Evan’s doctor is worried that he’s at risk for heart disease and for good reason. In middle adulthood, for the first time in a person’s life, their chances of dying by disease are higher than the chances of dying in an accident. And Evan isn’t the only one experiencing health issues.

His coworker, Melissa, was just diagnosed with cancer.Cancer is a disease that is caused by abnormal cells multiplying in the body. It is the leading cause of death for women in middle adulthood, and it is tied with heart disease for the leading cause of death for men in middle age.There are many things that can cause cancer, including genetics and age. But there are lifestyle factors, too, that can affect a person’s health. Studies have linked high alcohol and animal protein consumption to cancer deaths. In other words, eating a high-protein diet and drinking a lot of alcohol puts people, like Evan and Melissa, at a higher risk for cancer.

Evan’s doctor isn’t as worried about cancer in Evan as he is about cardiovascular disease, or heart disease. It, too, can be caused both by genetics and diet, and people who eat a diet high in meat and other animal proteins are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than those who eat a mostly plant-based diet.But there’s something else that can lower the risk of both cancer and cardiovascular disease: physical fitness. Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have a decreased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and many other health ailments. So, if Evan can start to exercise more regularly, his risk of cardiovascular disease can be lowered dramatically.

Toxic Traits

Armed with information from his doctor, Evan decides to make a lifestyle change. He begins running and lifting weights several times and week, and he has cut back on his meat and alcohol intake and is eating more veggies and fruits.

But Evan’s doctor is still worried about him. He has a stressful job, and he’s quick to get angry when someone messes something up. If his morning coffee is wrong or he gets stuck in a traffic jam, he feels himself getting angry.Evan is a type A personality, which is associated with being competitive, driven, ambitious and often hostile. His wife, Cindy, though is a type B personality; she’s laid-back and easy-going. She doesn’t get angry very often, and she’s okay with just lying around on a Sunday afternoon and not doing much of anything.

Numerous studies have shown that type A personalities are more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease than type B personalities. But the real difference seems to be the element of hostility and anger that type A personalities have in them. Some studies have shown that type A people who are not hostile and quick to anger do not have the same risk of cardiovascular disease as the type A people who do have hostility and anger.For this reason, hostility and anger are considered to be toxic traits. That is, they are personality traits that can be toxic to the person experiencing them.

What can Evan do? Anger management techniques, like meditation or counseling, can help him deal with his toxic traits. Just like eating healthier or working out, learning to lower his hostility and anger can help Evan subsequently lower his risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lesson Summary

Middle adulthood is the time of life between ages 40 and 65. During this time, cancer and cardiovascular disease become the leading causes of death.

Diet and exercise can help mediate the risks of developing those diseases. Further, dealing with the toxic traits of anger and hostility can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the middle adulthood years
  • Recognize the and describe the leading causes of death for those in middle adulthood
  • Detail what toxic traits are

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