Whether it’s unwanted weight gain, the loss of lean muscle, bone health concerns, or other issues, there are many challenges facing women during the years leading up to menopause and beyond.
Hormonal changes increase the rate at which women store fat and diminish their ability to burn fat. It also causes changes in insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Regular exercise benefits the heart, and the bones and helps control weight, improves insulin sensitivity, and as an added benefit can improve your mood.
Lean Body Mass
After the age of 40, women lose about 1% of their lean body mass per year if they’re inactive. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and running, as well as moderate weight training, help preserve lean muscle and may offset the weight gain that often occurs.
Women can lose as much as 20% of their bone density five to seven years after menopause. The best case scenario, experts say, is for women to enter menopause with sufficient bone density to minimize subsequent losses. Calcium, vitamin D, adequate-protein, not smoking, and exercise are key components to decreasing the amount of bone loss.
Hormone changes can also cause changes in digestion, including bowel discomfort, abdominal pain, bloating and altered bowel patterns. Gut microbiota changes with age, with a decline in the number and variety of protective microbes. Probiotics can help bring gut flora back into balance.
A study published in “Menopause” in 2012 found that the depletion of estrogen after menopause can lead to oxidative stress, a known risk factor for diseases such as heart disease and cancer. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits high in vitamin C and other antioxidants and phytoestrogens from foods such as soy and flaxseeds may help mitigate the effects of aging. Additionally, while supplements are not a replacement for food, for some women, antioxidant supplements may be a useful way to get nutrients they might otherwise lack.
As you approach mid-life, knowing what to expect and anticipating these changes means you can arm yourself with the best strategies to protect yourself from the negative effects of aging and help you live your healthiest life. If you have questions on what supplements you should take daily that may also help you support your transition into menopause take our supplement quiz!
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Role of menopausal transition and physical activity in loss of Lean and muscle mass: A follow-up study in middle-aged Finnish women. (n.d.). https://doi.org/10.37473/fic/10.3390/jcm9051588
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