Women have a higher life expectancy than men. A large part of this is the protective effects of estrogen. After menopause we lose that protection and our health risks increase. But there are other reasons for the increase in health risks and there are things you can do to reduce the risks.
This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about how good fitness and nutrition can benefit women during menopause and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not intended to be medical advice. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment.
Estrogen has a protective effect against several diseases. After going through menopause your hormone levels are not high enough to protect you from these diseases. Not all of the mechanisms are understood, but there is a connection.
- Estrogen keeps blood vessels flexible so after menopause heart disease becomes more likely. Less estrogen can lead to higher cholesterol levels and to higer blood pressure.
- Estrogen protects bones so that osteoporosis becomes more common after menopause
- Loss of estrogen slows the metabolism so many women gain weight after menopause
- Other chronic diseases like hypothyroidism, IBS and urinary incontinence seem to be related to lower levels of estrogen.
Menopause symptoms lead to higher risks
Common symptoms of menopause are low energy, insomnia and anxiety. These can all lead indirectly to higher health risks.
If you suffer from low energy you are less likely to do things that help you lead a healthy lifestyle. Exercise seems impossible, eating healthy foods is difficult, and these end up leading to higher health risks.
Poor sleep is related to a number of health risks. It contributes to heart disease, weight gain and lower immunity.
As we age our health risks naturally increase. If you look in the mirror you can see the signs of aging, but your organs age as well. Your tissues become less elastic.Diseases like arthritis are the result of cumulative wear and tear on the joints (although there are other factors present).
The risks of getting diseases like heart disease, cancer, and dementia all increase with age. Some of this is due to lifestyle factors, and a genetic pre-disposition to certain diseases, but some is due to aging of our cells.
There are many lifestyle factors that cause increased risk of disease. A lifetime of smoking increases risk. A lifetime of alcohol abuse increases risk. But many women negative lifestyle changes that occur around the time that perimenopause starts. Women aged 45 to 64 are less active than younger women and less active than men of the same age. Women are even less active after the age of 65.
There can be many causes for the lifestyle changes including less active jobs, less family time spent in activities, and low energy levels causes by hormone changes. At the same time women may be caring for older children and aging parents at the same time. This leads to less time for self care (including exercise) and tiger stress levels.
Does hormone therapy change the risks
Hormone therapy or HRT may help to reduce the risks of some diseases. It may help to prevent osteoporosis, reduce the risk of heart disease for some women and lower the risk of dementia. However HRT increases the risk of breast cancer, increase heart disease risk for some women and increase the risk of stroke. HRT is generally prescribed to treat menopause symptoms and you should discuss the risks and benefits with your physician. They depend on the types of hormones taken, when hormone replacement begins and how long hormone replacement is used.
What can you do to reduce your risks?
Fortunately there are several things that you can do to reduce your health risks.
Exercise is one of the most important steps in preventing diseases. It provides many of benefits that were lost with declining estrogen levels:
- Helps you to keep your weight under control. Being obese is associated with many health risks
- Strengthens your heart and lungs so helps to prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Helps to manage blood sugar and insulin levels so it reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Strengthens your bones so it helps to prevent osteoporosis
- Strengthens and builds muscles so it helps to prevent muscle loss and frailty
- Reduces your risks of developing some cancers
- Reduces stress and helps to reduce the effects of stress on your health
Eating a diet that is low in processed foods and contains a healthy amount of lean protein, whole grains and vegetables has many health benefits.
- It helps to keep weight under control.
- A diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables helps to reduce the risk of some cancers
- A diet that is low in sugar and processed carbohydrates helps to manage diabetes
- Eating lots of leafy green vegetables reduces the risk of developing heart disease
- Vegetables and lean protein help to provide the nutrients your bones need to stay strong
- Dishes containing turmeric and ginger help to lower inflammation which is associated with several diseases.
If your stress levels are high, consider trying some method of stress reduction. Meditation, exercise or spending time doing a hobby all help to relieve stress. High stress levels are associated with several diseases including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
Increased health risks during menopause are inevitable. But you can lower the risks using by taking advantage of the benefits of getting exercise, eating a healthy diet and using stress reduction techniques. The Healthy Changes Program can help you to develop the healthy habits needed to reduce your health risks.