When you reach the menopause
For most women the menopause (sometimes called 'the change') starts when they are in their late 40s or early 50s and usually lasts for several years. Hormonal changes, particularly a fall in oestrogen production, mean that the regularity of periods becomes more erratic and eventually they stop altogether. If you are suffering from unpleasant menopausal symptoms you are not alone - three-quarters of women in the UK suffer one or more symptoms during this time which commonly include hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability and tiredness. For a third these symptoms are severe and interfere with everyday life. Many of them are caused by the altered hormone levels, in particular the loss of oestrogen, and can be treated with medication so speak with your GP for individual advice if your symptoms persist.
The good news is that a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to reduce the severity of many of these symptoms and protect against other problems associated with loss of oestrogen such as heart disease and calcium loss from bones.
Around this time, as a direct result of the fall in oestrogen production, your bone density decreases (by as much as 2-3% during the 5 to 10 years immediately after the menopause). If your bone density was low to start with, this additional reduction will make you more likely to develop osteoporosis, which increases your risk of suffering a bone fracture. A healthy diet, not smoking and regular weight bearing exercise all help keep bones healthy.
It is also the female hormones, such as oestrogen, that provide relative protection, compared to men, against heart disease and storage of fat around the waist. So, as you approach the menopause it is a good time to take stock of your diet to make sure it is heart-healthy and watch your weight. If you carry too much fat around your waist you have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
Read on to find some useful tips on eating a healthy diet during and after the menopause; these will help you decrease your risk of certain diseases.
- © British Nutrition Foundation 2013