Heart to Heart Journey

Dealing with Perimenopause – The facts I learned (Part 1) | A little heart to heart #17

Hey there my lovelies,

Welcome back to my Blog!

Ahh, the 45 years milestone is here and what a journey it has been! 2020 was planned to be a good year but alas there were other plans in the pipeline for me which is okay I guess but sometimes those pesky last minute changes make the adjustment period longer than one expected!!!

Anyway there is another journey that I have been preparing myself for, so to say and that is the menopause journey. Sadly this journey is a flimsy one with no clear starting or ending point, odd diversions, and an estimated time of arrival that could span into years. Menopause is certainly a trip, and needless to say, I could use some turn-by-turn directions.

In lieu of all these changes ahead, I have been reading a researching a lot and here’s what I have learned so far.

So let’s get some facts sorted

The age at which a person experiences their menopause can impact their health in various ways. In fact, in addition to the inability to become pregnant, premature menopause (or getting menopause before 40) or early menopause (occurring at ages 40–45) can bring with it numerous complications.

These included a loss of bone density, a higher risk of heart disease, and loss of sexual desire are only some of the consequences of premature or early menopause. Experiencing one’s menopause at a later age, on the other hand, might have some health benefits. For instance, a recent study suggested that a later menopause onset might keep cognitive decline at bay in senior women.

What happens during the menopause?

During the perimenopause your body can change in different ways. As oestrogen levels fall, your periods may become irregular and/or heavy and you may lose your fertility. You may notice other physical changes including higher blood pressure, changes in cholesterol levels (increasing risk of heart disease), and losing calcium from your bones (raising the risk of osteoporosis). Other symptoms of the perimenopause can include weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, poor concentration, more frequent headaches, and joint pains. These symptoms are mainly due to falling oestrogen levels, and can last for just a few months or for several years! The range of symptoms and how severe they are, is different for each woman.

What can I do?

A range of lifestyle changes can make symptoms more tolerable. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be used by many women to help control these symptoms, however some women cannot take HRT due to other health problems, whilst others choose not to. The decision to take HRT or not should be discussed with your doctor. For all women, diet and lifestyle changes can help with symptoms. This can include taking dietary supplement products.

Weight Gain

During the menopause, muscle mass reduces which means you may need fewer calories. Over time this can lead to weight gain. Being careful about how many calories you consume, your portion sizes and doing more physical activity can help prevent weight gain. Resistance activities, such as using weights, are especially important to both preserve and build muscle mass. Thirty minutes of fast walking a day could lead to around 7kg (15lb) weight loss in a year, and also reduce the risk of heart disease.

Bone health

From the age of about 35, we slowly start to lose calcium from our bones. Losing oestrogen during menopause increases the rate of that loss, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Taking HRT helps to maintain oestrogen levels and protect bone health. There are also lots of nutrients that help to keep bones healthy, so it’s important to have a balanced diet. Choose a variety of foods and consume plenty of fruit, vegetables and dairy foods as these are a source of calcium.

Calcium – Aim for two to three portions of calcium-rich foods every day which can include:

  • a third of a pint/ 200ml semi skimmed milk,
  • a matchbox size piece of cheese,
  • a small yoghurt or
  • a milk-based pudding like custard or rice pudding.

Vitamin D is also very important for bone health. Your skin makes it in response to sunlight. We have plenty of that here in Malta, so during this time, it’s recommended you expose your skin to direct sunlight for around 10 minutes (with adecuate protection of course), once or twice per day, but avoid burning. All adults should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, especially during autumn and winter. Women over the age of 65, those with dark skin, from African, African-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds or who have low sunlight exposure should also consider taking a vitamin D supplement of 10 mcg per day all year round. There are not many foods that are good sources of vitamin D.

Foods that contain vitamin D include:

Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods.

  • oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
  • red meat
  • liver
  • egg yolks
  • fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals

Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.

Cows’ milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it is not fortified, as it is in some other countries.

Heart Health

Menopause can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Eating a healthy diet can help to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, here are some very simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk:

  • Switch from saturated to unsaturated fats by cutting down on fatty meats, switching to low saturate oils and spreads, choosing lower fat dairy and grilling rather than frying your food.
  • Include meals based on fish, nuts, beans or pulses at least once or twice each week.
  • Eat at least 4 to 5 portions of unsalted nuts, seeds and legumes per week.
  • Reduce your intake of refined sugars like sweets, cakes and soft drinks.
  • Reduce salt by avoiding processed foods like ready meals, soups and cooking sauces, and limiting salted snacks. Cooking from scratch means you can use different ingredients for flavour such as herbs and spices.
  • Aim for at least two portions of fish per week, one which should be oily as these are rich in omega-3 fats. Oily fish includes canned sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout and herrings.
  • Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and other plant nutrients such as antioxidants that help protect your heart. Aim to get your 5-a-day from a range of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day. ALL types can count (fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced).
  • Swap to higher fibre foods, such as wholegrain breads, high fibre breakfast cereals and brown rice whenever you can. Oats, wholegrain cereals and breads as well as pulses like lentils, chickpeas and beans are all excellent sources of fibre and heart friendly.

So there it is all the facts that I researched so far which has been very helpful for me to understand what to expect! The next installment will be the start of all the changes that I have been experiencing to date.

Until next time,

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