Women have unique health needs depending on their stage of life. Many women feel that once they hit their 40’s they are no longer supported by their healthcare practitioner with many of their health concerns misdiagnosed or labelled as ‘normal for your age’. Often women feel uncomfortable about discussing their menopause experiences – even among friendship groups. In fact, many premenopausal women believe that menopause means ‘hot flushes’ and ‘moodiness’. Although most know that it’s also associated with the cessation of periods, many women are surprised when they learn that menopause is actually a transition that takes place over a number of years – as many as 10.
It’s really disappointing that there is a void of information for women in their 40’s who are beginning to notice changes in their cycles – for many this begins with very heavy periods or irregular cycle lengths. These changes are happening because ovulatory function is beginning to decline, and this reduces progesterone production. At the same time, oestrogen can be very erratic leading to extremely heavy or scanty periods. As well as these changes to periods, women often start to notice other changes during this time – gaining a few extra kilos that are difficult to shed or experiencing sleepless nights for the first time in their lives. These symptoms are the result of the shifting hormones and the effects that they have on other body functions – glucose metabolism, nervous system function and more.
If you are noticing changes to your period, or you are further along your menopause journey, this information is for you. Experiencing symptoms in a vacuum of healthcare support can be frustrating but it doesn’t need to be this way. Gaining an understanding of what’s happening to your body and how making some simple changes to your diet and the way you live can have huge benefits –
· Better sleep
· More energy
· Maintain healthy body weight
· Feeling calm and grounded
· Healthy heart and brain
· Strong bones
The way that you support your health prior to menopause and during this transition is absolutely vital and can mean the difference between great health in older age and living with chronic illness. Did you know that in 2023, the average life expectancy for an Australian woman is 85 years? That means you will live at least a third of your life after menopause. Diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia have become the dominant cause of death for post menopausal women, with the decline in oestrogen and progesterone that occurs during menopause being a major factor. Investing in your health by optimising your diet and lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing these conditions. Nutrition is key to all health but as you age it is absolutely vital. A new way of eating is needed to support a healthy metabolism and to maintain a healthy body weight. The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to be effective in helping to maintain a healthy body weight as well as reducing inflammation and supporting cardiovascular health.
The decline in oestrogen that occurs with menopause is also responsible for changes in cardiovascular function and bone strength. Oestrogen is very protective of these systems and its loss means that extra care is needed such as ensuring intake of supportive nutrients including magnesium, calcium and vitamin D.
It’s not all bad news when you hit your 40’s. It’s a time to really take control of your health and to make changes that are going to benefit you for the rest of your life. By addressing the symptoms that you are experiencing during perimenopause such as irregular, heavy periods, unexplained weight gain, sleeplessness or ongoing fatigue and/or anxiety, not only will you increase your quality of life now but you can also make a huge difference to your long term health.