Menopause affects women of a “certain age” and is caused by a gradual but significant drop in levels of the hormone estrogen which results in an absence of periods for 12 or more months. Men sometimes suffer a similar condition which is commonly called andropause. Unlike menopause, andropause is caused by a decline in testosterone levels. Menopause is the more documented and common condition.
Menopause can happen at almost any age but is most common in women aged 50 and above. Some of the symptoms of menopause can be reduced/managed with exercise and a healthy diet while many women take doctor prescribed estrogen (commonly referred to as HRT or hormone replacement therapy) to alleviate menopausal symptoms.
Symptoms of menopause that can be helped by exercise and diet
Once menopause has started, many women often experience fat gain and that fat is distributed in different places. Pre-menopausal women tend to store their fat around the hips and thighs whereas women who are post menopausal tend to store fat around their stomachs.
To minimize this problem, post menopausal women should try to maintain a healthy body fat percentage by eating sensibly and exercising regularly.
Decreased bone mass
Bone mass, the density and strength of your bones, tends to decline in the post menopausal period. If bone loss becomes significant enough, this can result in an increased risk of suffering a fracture. If left untreated, this bone loss, called osteopenia, can turn into fully blown osteoporosis which is a disease characterized by brittle and fragile bones.
Weight bearing exercises such as jogging and lifting weights can help increase bone mass after menopause and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
As the effects of weight bearing exercises are local and not global (they affect the joints, muscles and bones most under load) it is important that post-menopausal women perform exercises for the upper body and the lower body to ensure all of these bones are stressed and therefore strengthened.
Increased risk of heart desease and stroke
As fat tends to accumulate in the abdominal cavity after menopause, post-menopausal women have an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and suffering from strokes. Estrogen offers a natural protection against these medical conditions but as levels of this hormone decline, the risks of CHD etc. start to rise.
A diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber which is also low in saturated and trans-fats is considered to be the most heart-healthy way to eat and combined with regular cardiovascular exercise can help reduce many of these cardiovascular risk factors. Maintaining a healthy body weight is also strongly linked to reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke in post menopausal women.
Life after menopause
Menopause affects all women differently. Some breeze through and barely notice any symptoms at all whereas some really suffer and take quite a long time to feel themselves after menopause has passed, Either way, maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can really take the sting out of menopause and are both essential for improving and maintaining your general health and wellbeing.
Mark Darco is a professional personal trainer with more than 14 years experience and has worked with hundreds of clients. He has successfully completed multiple certifications and continues to provide top class fitness training to clients of all ages in the NYC area.