Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers. Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle, as she has herself battled and overcome stress and eating disorder. She shares her experiences in an effort to help others overcome the physical and mental health problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable. Here she talks to MumAbroad Life about the nutritional needs for women during menopause.
Menopause is when a woman stops having periods and can no longer get pregnant naturally. This change doesn’t happen overnight; many women experience early menopause symptoms at least 4 years before their last period. The median age for menopause is 51, though some might experience it as early as their 30s while others reach menopause only in their 60s. Menopause triggers several changes in a woman’s body which is why a healthy diet is of utmost importance during this time.
Calcium plays an important role in bone health as well as blood clotting and muscle contraction. Estrogen levels fall at menopause which is why women are less able to retain calcium from dietary sources during and after menopause. Calcium supplementation is especially important during this time to prevent calcium depletion and maintain bone mass. Doctors generally recommend vitamin D supplements along with calcium as vitamin D increases calcium absorption. Typically, women should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium along with 600 IU of vitamin D per day during and after menopause. A higher calcium intake might also help to prevent osteoporosis and similar bone diseases that are more common in post-menopausal women.
There are 8 B vitamins and they play important roles in maintaining our overall health. B vitamins are necessary for proper nervous system function and normal bone metabolism. An insufficient intake of B vitamins is linked to a variety of health problems from an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Although these health problems can affect both men or women of any age, menopausal and post-menopausal women have a higher risk. Studies show that an adequate intake of B vitamins can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 24%. Include foods such as beef liver, salmon, shellfish, eggs and leafy greens in your daily diet as they are good sources of B vitamins.
After the age of 50 nearly half of all deaths in women are directly or indirectly linked to cardiovascular disease. This increased risk of cardiovascular disease is largely due to the increase in diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure which are known risk factors for heart disease. Researchers found that fiber, especially soluble fiber helps to decrease levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Fiber intake also improves blood sugar levels and may reduce your risk of diabetes. Black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, avocados and sweet potatoes are some of the best sources of soluble fiber so you should include them in your regular diet.
Women require more iron than men because of the iron we lose during our menstrual period. However, once you hit menopause and your periods stop, your iron requirement is reduced. The RDA for premenopausal women is 18mg per day but it drops to 8 mg per day once you stop menstruating. If you have been taking iron supplements, you will need to talk to your doctor about modifying your dosage. This is because studies show that elevated levels of iron are a risk factor for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
The combination of a changed hormone profile, slower metabolism and decreased physical activity during menopause can result in weight gain. Furthermore, changes in the ratio of estrogen to androgen increases fat deposits around the abdomen. It is best to decrease your calorie intake while simultaneously increasing your physical activity level in order to prevent weight gain during menopause. The recommended decrease in calorie intake is 200 calories a day which means that if you’re sedentary, you will need 1,600 calories a day, if you’re moderately active, you will need 1,800 calories a day and if you’re active, you will need 2,200 calories a day.
It is important to follow a healthy balanced diet during menopause to ensure that you meet your nutritional requirements. This will also help to reduce menopause side effects such as hot flashes, mood swings and fatigue. It is best to reduce your intake of carbs, especially processed carbs such as white bread, pastries, sodas and junk foods. You can talk to your doctor about the benefits of a keto diet during this phase of your life.