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 ūüėČ

 

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 ūüėõ

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 ūüôā

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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Younger Next Year For Women Book Review

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Among other things I enjoy doing in life, reading is at the top of the list.

Weird, I know, someone who writes likes to read.

Sometimes I have a hard time just being still to do it. However, if I get into¬†a good book,¬†well then, the house could fall down around me and I’d be oblivious.

Anyone else out there like that?

Ok so I’ve just finished a book I’m excited over. It’s a¬†fun, easy read, and packed full of humor and super¬†good information. I’ve been eager to finish and write a book review on it ’cause I really think everyone should read it… it’s like…that good.

It’s called “Younger Next Year For Women” . Of course, anyone can read it, but it’s really driven at the middle aged crowd. The “over 40 and pushing the Senior citizen discount crowd.”

Don’t let the title distract you.

It’s not coming from a point so prevalent in society today… trying to physically look younger with often extreme measures involved in a pursuit to look like we did in high school.

The title of the book does imply, being older but still being young at heart, strong, active, full of life and vitality. Being able to physically do things you did 10 years previously. Sometimes, doing them better.

Why wouldn’t you want to be able to do that?¬† Sign me up.

My doctor recommended¬†the book¬†to me when I was in for my yearly checkup telling me I “embodied the women” they wrote about.¬† She thought I’d be encouraged by the information since I was already doing many of the things the authors encouraged their readers to do.

Well, of course I was intriqued.  I had found it on Amazon before I ever pulled out of the parking lot.

It cost me a whole $4.00.

I realized seeing the authors names that I had read excerpts of their writings in magazines and found them entertaining, highly informative, and spot on with the truths they were preaching.  I guess because they were truths I had already been living out.

I was excited to get my hands on the entire work and not just pieces of it. Two men wrote the book, one  a Doctor, the other interestingly enough came into his life as his patient. Together they make a great team.

Meaning you have lots coming at you from a medical perspective and you have the other perspective from someone who’s walked the walk and is 70ish living a strong, healthy and energetic lifestyle.

So I’m going to just give you my personal take on it, my thoughts and observations.¬† If anything I hope you’ll spend a few dollars on¬†the book¬†and glean truths out of it that will help and motivate you to live a healthy, positive life, for the rest of your life.

Their first¬†book, “Younger Next Year”,¬†¬†was written with an eye towards middle aged men.¬† It was evidently such a huge success they had women asking them to write¬† a woman’s version of it¬†with a focus on issues women deal with.¬†¬†They did and it is appropriately titled, “Younger Next Year For Women”.

This is what my book review is on ’cause well… I’m a woman ūüėõ

On a side note, I was reading on the patio at my favorite coffee hang out one afternoon. I was intent on finishing the book. I noticed a couple sitting there when I walked out. They were “older” but looked healthy and fit. After about 5 minutes the man asks of me… “are you enjoying the book?”

I think he’s just being polite and has no idea what I’m reading. The wife is smiling and she finally¬†says… “we’ve read those books! we thought the men/women’s were so good we gave them as Christmas gifts to all our friends!”

I had to admit it was pretty weird timing to have them sitting there while I was polishing off the book, giving me their glowing review of it.

The overall idea of the book and the truths, thoughts and suggestions contained within are on living a strong, healthy, fit, (and gasp), even still being sexy, in what they refer to as the third stage of life.

Meaning, life after menopause.

You don’t have to “get old”, turn frumpy, get fat, tired, develop diseases and then die. ( seriously, they put this all in such a humorous way…don’t depend on me to spill it all here.)

Sadly, there is a pervasive thought that this is just “what happens”…like we’re helpless¬†victims of aging…¬†and so much of it doesn’t have to happen¬†and is preventable.

I know, you might be looking at the title and ¬†seeing that sexy part and think “hey, I’m old. Sexy went away a long time ago.”¬† Define that how you will,¬† but I still want to feel good about myself and I certainly have no intention of giving up my edge ’cause I’m not 20 or 30ish anymore. I’m not quitting and turning in my woman card just ’cause I’m older.

Ok.. besides that…. what my doctor already knew about me when she recommended the book, and what I’ve figured out since reading it, is that I’ve been doing all the things they are encouraging women to do to live a strong, and healthy life.

But when I read the lines “A book of hope, that shows you how to¬† become functionally younger for the next five to ten years, and continue to live thereafter with newfound vitality. How to avoid 70 percent of the normal problems of aging, and eliminate 50 percent of illness or injury. And how to live brilliantly for the three decades or more after menopause.”¬†

Now I’m not sure what “how to live brilliantly” exactly means but I’m down for it.

Who doesn’t wanna live, brilliantly ??

From the first few pages, I¬†was hooked on it.¬† I already feel like I live an extremely active life compared to the majority of people my age.¬† My doctor teasingly calls me her poster child for middle aged fitness. I’ve been practicing an active, healthy lifestyle for quite a few years now and I know how I feel and the difference it’s made in me physically, well it’s made a difference in all areas actually.

Eating well and vigorous exercise make big impacts on our bodies and our minds.

And of course I’m interested in learning how I can keep doing the things I’m doing now…. for the rest of my life.

Who wouldn’t want to ?!

When I look ahead, I see myself doing the things I do today. I have no desire to be less active or not be able to do the things I do now.

What happens for so many is that they stop moving.  They stop using their bodies.  They gain weight and become more and more sedentary. This causes weakness and frailty as we get older. This can also contribute to the development of diseases.

The aging process.

I loved this line in the book “you do have to age, but you don’t have to rot”

That line just landed hard on me. That word…. rot….. just the mental visions it stirred up.. yuck.

I don’t want to be a part of the rotting group.

From birth, we begin an aging process. The authors point is that we all go through the aging process. We rot when we stop using our bodies. It gives creed to the jokes of “getting older and falling apart”.

Their point… it doesn’t have to happen. You will age, but rotting, can largely¬†be prevented.¬† Illnesses and age related issues that people think “happen ’cause you’re old” can be avoided.

The book is laid out in an easy¬†conversational tone¬†with the “patient”¬† Chris, and the Doctor, Henry. Each one takes a chapter and addresses different thoughts or ideas. Chris, from¬† living a lifestyle as the patient who needed to make changes and the impact that’s had on him and Henry, the doctor who basically called him out on his lifestyle and how it was affecting him. He of course brings all the hard hitting physical and medical truths to us in the book.

Their writing is humorous and easy to read. It’s smart and intelligent.

It’s also hard hitting and blunt… just a heads up. They call things as they see them and pull no punches.

Straight truth. It might make you squirm. Or convict you. It might even make you mad if it hits close to home.

Why? Because they are passionate about what they do, what they believe, and the HUGE impact they see on people who do the things they recommend.

As I’ve contemplated what to write you about this book, I’ve realized I just want to share entire chapters with you and that won’t do ’cause then you won’t have to get the book and read it!

And you should read it… remember… it’s pretty cheap information on being strong, fit, and healthy for the rest of your life.

Below¬†are¬†their cardinal rules for living this life I’m talking about. This¬†will have to do for now. ¬†They greatly expand on all these areas in the chapters of the book,¬†which you’ll have to get it if you want to learn more about what they say on these points ¬†ūüėČ

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Not just that…if you like to laugh… you’ll want to read it. Delivering anything with a stroke of humor always works for me.

But more than anything, read it if you want to make an impact on your future life.

Have you read anything¬†lately that’s made an impact on you ?