All women that approach the age of 50 will transition through menopause.
The decline in reproductive function leaves you with little to work with when it comes to the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. With female life expectancy reaching around 80 years old, that's a whole lot of years after the age of 50 living without the function and benefit of these hormones.
Oestrogen and progesterone sprung up on you during adolescence and supported you through your 20’s, 30’s and majority of your 40’s. And whether you know or not, that support wasn’t just for periods and reproduction. Oestrogen plays a major beneficial role in muscle and fat distribution, bone density and cardiovascular health, cognition AND MORE.
Loss of muscle is a natural occurrence with age but women have a more rapid decline around the time of menopause due to the changes in sex hormones alongside a reduced intake of dietary protein. Oestrogen, along with testosterone (main anabolic hormone), and DHEA (precursor for oestrogen and testosterone) also decline after menopause further contributing to muscle loss. The importance in keeping up muscle strength is for the prevention of later injuries so, let’s delay the need for our first walking frame. Maintaining muscle mass will also benefit body composition. Muscle is the second largest storage location for excess energy before it is diverted into fat stores and more muscle means more sites to burn energy!
Improve muscle mass:
Adequate protein for muscle mass
STRESS & ENERGY
Our stress response wreaks havoc on many of our bodily functions. At this age, you may find things in your life occurring such as health issues, divorce, death of parents, adult children moving away, and more. Stress increases a hormone called cortisol from our adrenal glands, which dampens many body functions (digestion, immunity, nervous system) and accelerates others (protein breakdown, inflammation). Without proper digestion you will lack nutrient absorption like iron, B vitamins, and fats for energy. Cortisol blocks the production of melatonin - our key sleep hormone and without sleep, fatigue and irritability increase and clearance of waste in the brain is prevented leading to poor mood, poor cognition and more stress.
Improving stress and energy:
Low GI diet
Reducing/eliminating dietary stimulants
Adrenal and adaptogenic herbs
COGNITION & MOOD
Save this blog, because you’ll probably forget it later. It is extremely common for women to notice a decline in memory and cognition as they age. Areas of our brain that are key players in concentration, attention, learning and social behaviour work much better when oestrogen is around. It promotes the numbers and the activity of our feel good hormone - serotonin. Many women experience anxiety and depression (which has a 45-68% prevalence during menopause) as a result of hormonal changes. Stress and inflammation will also impact cognition and mood
Improve cognition & mood:
Adequate protein for hormones
Meditation & Mindfulness to manage mood
Healthy fats for brain health
Anxiolytic and mood enhancing herbs
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
Women have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease prior to menopause due to the protective effects of oestrogen on heart and vessel function and inflammation. Better blood flow, vessel rebuilding and cell survival paired with management of inflammatory damage lead to its benefits on blood pressure and heart diseases. After menopause, cardiovascular risk rises so it is important to identify alternative ways to achieve these cardio-protective effects.
Improve heart health:
Nutritional supplementation for blood pressure
BONES & JOINTS
Throughout the lifetime oestrogen promotes the activity of bone building cells. With the onset of menopause and changes in oestrogen balance, it is expected that the turnover of bone cells overrule the re-building processes leading to bone loss and higher incidences of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Inflammation that occurs with stress, high cortisol and low oestrogen also enhance the breakdown of bone. Other mechanisms occurring are low calcium absorption and low vitamin D levels. Increased inflammation occurring in joints lowers the production of joint lubricant increasing osteoarthritis risk. A Bone Density Scan may be for you if have previously had common fractures, take steroid medication, experienced early menopause or have Coeliac disease.
Improve bones & joints:
Bone specific nutritional supplementation
Weight bearing & resistance training
Talking to your GP about a Bone Density Scan
It’s very likely you will get changes in thyroid function with age, and being a female makes your chances of thyroid disease up to 20 times more likely than men. Sub-clinical and clinical hypothyroid can cause poor concentration, dry skin, fatigue, depression coldness, weight gain and cramps, and exacerbates cardiovascular risks associated with declining oestrogen. On the other end of the spectrum - sub-clinical and clinical hyperthyroidism share the menopausal symptoms of sweating, anxiety, heart palpitations, and insomnia so it is an important differential diagnosis when it comes to your symptoms.
Improve thyroid health:
This is an area of health that is best checked with your practitioner. A Full Thyroid Profile will determine hormone levels. Once levels are confirmed natural medicine and lifestyle changes may help in restoring your thyroid function.