Menopause, Muscles And Middle Age

As a writer I often have multiple ideas bouncing through my head at any given time. I have random papers with ideas, thoughts, or titles scratched out on them. I do have a writing…uh “journal”.  Journal might be the wrong word… it’s like my writing BRAIN.

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Don’t judge me.  A writers brain can kinda look like this at any given time 😉

 

It has research notes, future blog ideas, and tons of random, misplaced words all over pages that no one would get but me.

Uh…hey… sometimes I don’t even remember what they’re either 😛

The bad thing is when I’m out on the road…bike or running… which can be some of my most creative thinking times… and an idea comes to me. I have nothing to write it on so it kinda becomes my mantra till I finish so I don’t forget it.

If I’m fortunate enough to have a title come first, that gets written down to be saved for the body to come and fill it out.

Todays topic has been a slow work in process. I’ve read and scratched out research notes and tried to compare the best sensible ideas and now… hopefully… put it into a readable format.

Todays topic is one that still mystifies me as to why, in this day and age, with the “anything goes” attitude, why it’s still so “hush hush”.

Oh the topic for today? Menopause.

menopause

**Gasp**    I know. I’m going there.

I am a pretty open straight forward person and am not put off by much. To me, it’s simply one more natural part of life.

Well, for women that is. Yet even in todays “whatever goes” world this is still treated in hushed silence with an overarching attitude that says this topic should only be quietly discussed behind closed doors… and certainly not around… men.

Guys, you can bow out now if you want. Or read. I’m pretty sure you have some woman in your life that will experience this.  Maybe you’ll glean something useful.

How did I get started on this topic ? It’s certainly something I personally haven’t given much thought too. I mean, I know at some point it will happen. I’m just to busy living life to think much about it.

However, I’ve had a few women reach out to me asking for help/ideas… how did I deal with it etc. etc.

I’d also see posts or hear conversations with women who were quite a bit younger than me complaining of “the change” and complaining of symptoms ( peri menopause, the years preceeding menopause.)

The thing is I had nothing to offer.  I haven’t gone through it and I seemingly haven’t struggled with horrible symptoms leading up TO the big event.

Based on some things I’d read, and things my doctor had said, I was curious if my lifestyle had an impact on this.

Did a healthy diet, an appropriate weight, and regular vigorous exercise contribute to not dealing with so many of these issues that bothered women?

Obviously, I was curious and began to read and explore this thought. Perhaps, if there was truth to this, women weren’t helpless victims to symptoms but would actually have some measure of possible control over them.

Ok but first.

There’s a lot out there on this topic. I’ve tried to wade through hocus pocus stuff, weird fixes, overall “off beat” ideas, and just bring something simple and easy to digest for the average woman reading.

This is about managing symptoms women deal with, not stopping or preventing menopause.

As stated earlier, this is a natural part of life. It’s largely genetic as to when it occurs in every woman. Other factors can come into play as well as to when it occurs.  The median range in the U.S. for women to experience menopause is 51.  Although there is also an age range of 48-55.  A woman is considered menopausal when she has gone a full 12 months with no periods.

It turns out doing research, and weighing that against my own experiences, that there are things we can do to help with those annoying and sometimes, difficult symptoms.

First, a quick biology lesson.  Menopause is when a woman’s body stops producing female hormones, estrogen and progesterone and monthly cycles cease.

Peri menopause refers to the years leading up to menopause. It is during this time that women can have symptoms or problems associated with declining hormones.

When you have low estrogen ( because it’s not adequately produced) it can lead to symptoms such as hot flashes, rare periods, anxiety, bone loss, insulin resistance, and elevation of bad cholesterol.  Moodiness, low sex drive, changes in skin and hair are also other things that are reported.

Women also complain of weight gain and a slowing metabolism but that can possibly be connected to a lifestyle of inactivity.

So are there ways to keep our super power longer? Estrogen IS our super power. Are there ways to help our bodies produce it longer? Ways to supplement it naturally?

There are definitely things that a woman can be proactive in doing that can possibly help her during this time. It just requires some adjustments to her lifestyle and choices she makes.

What have I learned ?

Exercise IS important!

in fact I believe hugely important. Aside from the obvious benefits of helping maintain weight or losing it there are a plethora of other things to consider.

Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can help with moods and aches and pains, all common complaints of post menopausal women.

Exercise also contributes to good blood flow through the body. Regular exercise keeps blood flowing and the immune system normal. Proper body function through exercise increases the bodies hormone production naturally.   Estrogen production levels are kept normal for longer than usual.

This is important as imbalanced hormones are behind most symptoms.

Physically active women experience less stress, anxiety, and depression during this time.

Due to a decrease in estrogen women can also lose muscle mass, which can also mean a loss of strength.

Post menopausal women are also at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

This is believed to be due to the loss of estradiol during perimenopause and at the onset of menopause. Estradiol may have antioxidant properties, and the loss of this can be why oxidative stress levels rise in postmenopausal women and can ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease.

Women who are more active experience a decrease in oxidative stress due to increase in enzymatic antioxidant levels. While this might be true, it is still important to remember that problems with heart health could also be tied to the stress that many women experience around menopause due to lack of sleep, lack of understanding, and a lack of a solid support system. Regardless, training for a healthy heart is so important.

The recommended amount of cardio exercise each week is at least 150 minutes.

Action plan:

If you don’t currently exercise consider what you might enjoy doing and begin to pursue it. If anything, start getting out for daily vigorous walks. And I don’t mean walking like you’re with grandma on a Sunday afternoon. Move quickly. Move your arms. You should really be putting some effort into it.

Add some type of strength training/weight bearing exercise to strengthen and build bones and prevent muscle loss. Women post menopause can expect to lose 2-3% of bone density in a year and physically inactive people can expect to lose 3-5% of their muscle mass after 30.  A healthy diet and exercise can help the slowing of bone mineral density. Running, walking, jumping rope, lifting weights etc are all good examples to strengthen bones and muscles.

older woman muscles

Engage a friend to get on board with you for accountability and encouragement.

Strive for 5-6 days a week of at least 30 minutes. This would easily meet the recommended 150 minutes.  Ideally, in time, you will want to increase your activity level.

Maintain a healthy weight.

All of us have a weight range that is healthy for us. Know what yours is. Being overweight or obese can not only lead to irregular ovulation but it also greatly contributes to hot flashes, the main complaint for many women.

And of course the obvious. Being over weight can lead to a host of health problems you’d rather not deal with.

Action plan:

take a critical look at how you eat and what you eat. Be aware of what your portions are. Most people greatly over estimate portion sizes of food. Aim for healthy foods as the maintain stay of your diet. Don’t be overly restrictive or it could lead to binging.

It might be helpful to record every single thing you eat for a week to see what your daily nutrition looks like. Be honest. This isn’t to beat yourself up over, rather to have as an honest tool to help you.   Use that as a guide to make improvements.

A weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week is reasonable and sustainable. Just approach it in a slow and steady manner. It’s not a track and field event to knock weight off fast.

A before picture will give you a good visual months down the road to compare your efforts to as well as taking your measurements.

Don’t smoke or drink.

ok well in general it’s just my thought that you shouldn’t do these things.  I view neither as a positive or healthy thing for the body.

However, we’re all different.

If you do drink be aware that alcohol can be a major trigger for hot flashes and can increase symptoms as the body is less tolerant to it.  Not only that, alcohol is often high in sugar and calorie content contributing to weight gain.

Smoking. Not only is it horrible for your heart and lungs and contributes to aging, consider these other things:

Women who smoke have signifigantly higher levels of infertility, difficult cycles, and early menopause.

Smoking can also increase natural menopause by 1-2 years regardless of genetics or race.

Heavy or habitual smokers may hit menopause before they are 50.

Smokers may also have more hot flashes as they transition.

Action Plan:

Smoking and drinking can not only cause adverse health effects, but it can also wreak havoc on you during peri and menopause years. Consider reducing or limiting your intake of both, or quitting all together.

Nutrition:

I could camp for awhile on this topic and just tell you how important I think it is.  Not only to your health overall but in these years of transition for your body.

A good daily “diet” not only makes you feel better, it helps with how you look, helps you to lose or maintain weight, and can help with symptoms of peri menopause.

Do you know there are foods called photo estrogens? Photo estrogen foods can stimulate natural hormone production.

Phytoestrogens are created by plants. They are not the same estrogen created by humans. Rather they are a form of xenoestrogens, which means even though they are different, they do have the ability to imitate some effects of human estrogen when in our body.

During peri-menopause some doctors recommend an increase in photo estrogen foods to counteract hormonal imbalances women begin to experience.

Antioxidant foods prevent  premature aging . Since menopause is a sign of overall aging consuming antioxidant foods can delay menopause too.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and photo estrogens can contribute to overall better health and help stimulate natural hormone production.

Some foods to consider are:

Soy, celery, parsley, beets, apples, mushrooms, brussel sprouts,  seaweed, squash, olives, pears, plums, tomatoes, barley, wheat germ,  yams, and  black eyed peas.

Soy can also help with the reduction of bone loss during peri menopause.

Vitamin D (sunlight exposure) mimics properties of estrogen. Also, make sure you get plenty of calcium as well to help your bones 🙂

Antioxidant foods to consider are:

Red, purple and blue grapes, blueberries, red berries, nuts, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes and orange vegetables, tea, whole grains and fish.

Adequate protein is also extremely important to build and repair muscles. Make sure each meal contains at least 30% to combat hunger, prevent blood sugar spikes, and contribute to muscle growth.

Eating a healthy diet,  and eating minimal junk/sugar/high fat/sugar drinks/fast foods can go a long way to helping you feel and look good and contribute to your overall health.

Finally, it is important that you have open communication with your doctor to discuss issues or difficulties you may be having.  Some women with severe symptoms will do HRT ( Hormone Replacement Therapy) there has been much said about this in recent years so do your homework and decide if you can ride through some things or if it’s something critical to your living well that you do HRT.

Be proactive :

Lose weight. Make exercise a daily part of your life. Reduce or quit smoking. Reduce or quit drinking alcohol. Make an effort to eat healthy, nutritionally balanced foods, incorporating plenty of antioxidants and photo estrogen foods in what you eat.

In summary…  menopause is a part of life.  Women need to be prepared and not just wait for symptoms to occur. Taking care of yourself now will have long term benefits, before and after menopause, allowing you to live strong and healthy in the last third of your life.

 

 

 

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Published by

Sassyfitnesschick

8 years ago I began what I now refer to as my "journey into lifestyle fitness". After a yearly check in with my Dr he said I looked "really good on paper, but I might consider losing a few pounds" I wasn't offended... I knew I needed to but it seemed like to much work at the time. In that year we had adopted 2 girls out of foster care, plus caring for my 3 sons & husband sort of left me on the back burner taking care of "me". I told him I "used to" walk & he encouraged me to at least get back to that. I left his office that day, started, & never quit. As time moved on my walks increased in length & speed. I started mingling some jogging into it...then after more time some short sprints. One day I realized I was doing more running than anything else. I learned to run longer and farther. I constantly challenged myself to do more. I realized I had turned into a runner & was loving it. I have since run 6 half marathons, 2 full marathons, and my first 50K scheduled for March 1,2015. Not bad for a girl who just started off walking not quite 2 miles! My body was now beginning to show the results of my work as weight & inches dropped off. I began to add in boxing & weights on days I wasn't running. Over time as the fat left, my new muscles were waiting underneath =) Obviously, I also made some food changes. Nothing drastic..just started eating less and trying to eat better.. I hated diets and how they made me feel....deprived & left out of all the fun...so adjusting & eating less of what I liked and moving more.. I found myself getting in decent physical shape. It began my thinking of lifestyle and not "dieting". As I got stronger,healthier & more fit it was an easier process to "let go" of some of the foods I had enjoyed. I had more energy, strength and confidence in what I could do. It was empowering. It made me realize that I probably wasn't the only one who wanted to lose weight, be healthy & strong but not always be on some sort of "diet". Maybe my journey & what I had learned & been doing might possibly help others to success in their lives... I consider myself to be rather normal and ordinary ( meaning I haven't always been into fitness and healthy eating) it has been a steady, daily, learned process with good days and bad days and my hope is that you too, will see the greatness in you, and that you have the ability and power to change and do anything you put your mind to. If you want change, you can make it happen. It's just one day at a time, making smart moves and better choices, and before you know it, things are happening. Get started on your journey, really, what do you have to lose ? And yet, so much to gain =)

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