Keeping your health on track during and beyond menopause
Like many aspects of aging, menopause has long been stigmatised and the lack of conversation means that many women are stuck with unanswered questions about their health during this stage of life. Menopause is something that every woman will experience at some point in their life. Let’s take a deep dive into how our bodies change during this stage of life and what we can do to keep our health on track during and beyond menopause.
What is menopause?
Menopause refers to the natural and permanent end of a woman’s menstrual cycle that usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Peri-menopause is the stage when periods become irregular and can last several years in the lead up to menopause. Post-menopause refers to a woman who hasn’t had a period for 12 months or more.
Common symptoms experienced during menopause include hot flushes, sleep disturbances, joint or muscle aches, fatigue, and mood changes. If you are having regular check-ups with your GP then you may notice other changes such as higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight gain. The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices including maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active can make the experience and transition through menopause that little bit easier to manage by preventing excess weight gain and reducing your risk of chronic disease along the way.
Both men and women gain weight as they age. Many people believe that weight gain around menopause is due to hormonal changes, however, it actually has more to do with lifestyle changes. On average women gain around 1kg of weight each year. That’s because as we get older our energy needs decrease, we are usually less physically active and our lifestyle tends to slow down. Eating nutritious foods, reducing caloric intake, and exercising regularly can assist with maintaining a healthy weight.
Belly fat & heart health
One thing that is influenced by menopause is where fat is stored. Postmenopausal women are more likely to have a greater percentage of body fat around the belly instead of their hips, thighs, and buttocks. As increased fat around the middle section can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease it is important to pay attention to the kinds of foods you are eating. The Heart Foundation suggests these 5 tips to support a healthy heart dietary pattern:
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Swap to wholegrains – brown rice, wholemeal pasta, grainy bread, and oats
- Make healthy fat choices – avocadoes, olives, nuts and seeds, olive oil, or sunflower oil
- Choose a variety of healthy protein-rich foods – lean meat, legumes, eggs, and unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt
Keeping your bones strong
As we get older, we start to lose calcium in our bones. Menopause accelerates this process as the drop in oestrogen causes an increased rate of calcium loss. To reduce the risk of osteoporosis women should pay close attention to meeting their calcium requirements. This is important throughout all stages of life but becomes even more important once menopause occurs. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that women over 50 increase their intake of dairy and/or alternatives from 2 ½ up to 4 serves daily. For reference, one serving is equal to 1 cup of milk or milk alternative with added calcium, 2 slices (40g) of hard cheese, ¾ cup yoghurt or 100g tofu.
Vitamin D is also very important for bone health as it helps with calcium absorption. In Australia, the main source of vitamin D is from sun exposure. Getting 5 – 10 minutes of sunlight at least 3 – 5 times per week can help make sure that you are getting enough vitamin D. When trying to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D it is important to be mindful of UV exposure:
- In summer (UV Index is 3 or above) spend a few minutes a day in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon to expose arms and hands to sunlight.
- In late autumn and winter (UV Index is below 3) spend time outdoors in the middle of the day with some skin uncovered.
Foods to avoid
Eating a healthy, balanced diet should be the priority for women going through menopause. That’s why if you are looking to lose weight, it is important to avoid fad diets that cut out specific food groups. This will ensure that you don’t miss out on essential nutrients and avoid regaining the weight you lost.
In addition to this, many people may believe that soy has harmful effects on hormonal health. However, there is limited research to suggest that soy foods need to be avoided, and in actual fact may be consumed as part of a healthy diet, especially for people looking for dairy and meat alternatives.
Depending on the symptoms that you are experiencing, avoiding spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine may assist with managing hot flushes and sleep disturbances.
Healthy choices to make during menopause:
- Check-in with your GP to assist with managing symptoms
- Check portion sizes
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Get adequate calcium and vitamin D
- Engage in regular physical activity including both cardio and weight-bearing activities each week
- Prioritise sleep and manage stress levels
How Lite n’ Easy can help!
The single most important dietary change you can make to be healthier is to eat five serves of veggies and two serves of fruit each day. But it can be hard, which is why Lite n’ Easy’s complete meal solutions are the way to go. You’ll get to eat the right foods in the right portions throughout the day and get your daily 5+2 simply by enjoying our complete solution with a huge range of delicious meals. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or click here to order now.