The 'M' word is as scary to women as erectile dysfunction to men. Already a woman's body buffers a lot more stress unlike a man's, due to all physiological yet exhaustive processes involved with her gender, starting from menarche to menopause. After all these years of continuous biological test of stamina as she reaches her advanced years, nature gifts her with 'Menopause'... what an irony! Menopause is not just about mood swings, obesity, hot flashes, anxiety, or depression, but it's a state where most women start feeling “It is all Over for me!”. Despite galore of information available today, many questions about menopause and how to combat this inevitable remain mostly unsorted. So, the current scenario is- researchers are desperate, clinicians are doubtful and ultimately patients remain unsatisfied. I won't go into that gray zone of confusions, rather my today's talk would be confined to- how can we combine good Nutrition and Exercise to combat evil Menopause. No hormone replacement therapy (HRT) shall be addressed in this article as HRT is associated with increased risks of heart diseases, strokes and development of breast cancer; Only few tested, safe and practical measures which every woman can follow would find places in subsequent paragraphs.
Essential Nutritional modifications for Menopausal Women:
* Probably you're thinking of 'Osteoporosis' or fragile bones by now. Unfortunately, it's not only your bones but muscles too take the blow of menopause! Due to fall of estrogen level in your body, calcium absorption deteriorates which demands for a diet rich in calcium. If you're a menopausal woman you need little less than 1500 mg of calcium per day. In our country, richest dietary calcium sources are milk and milk products (curd, yogurt etc). For your estimation: 100 ml of cow-milk provides you around 120 mg of calcium. Take 500-700 ml of milk per day (unless you have milk intolerance) and pop in a 500 mg calcium tablet, in fixed dose combination with vitamin D3 (you can procure the same OTC).
* As I mentioned earlier, menopause weakens your muscles too, which may manifest as muscular/joint aches with normal exercise. Easiest way of combating menopausal muscle wastage is to increase your dietary protein intake. As a thumb-rule, 1 gram of protein per kg of your ideal body weight can efficiently safeguard your body muscles. Comparing your present weight with normal range of BMI (Body Mass Index) can be one way of finding out your ideal body weight or, simply use an online Ideal body weight calculator for the same.
* Unless you're affected by thyroid disorders you are free to consume soy products liberally up to 50 grams a day. Other than rich calcium content, soy products also contain magnesium, boron, isoflavones, phytoestrogens etc which have multiple protective functions in a woman's body. Dietary soy improves overall bone health, decreases risk of fracture, prevents hot flashes and also has some protective role against breast cancer!
* Limit your Tea and Coffee intake, as tannin and caffeine (principal stimulant ingredients of tea and coffee respectively) are known to cause calcium loss from human body.
* Limited consumption of red wine can be beneficial (about 80-100 ml) but 'limited' is a keyword here, to be sincerely noted. More than 'limited' wine consumption can elevate levels of fat in your blood which can cause myriad chronic diseases.
Essential physical Exercises for Menopausal Women:
* As a matter of fact, nutritional modifications can not be your standalone measures to combat menopause, because, to make your bones absorb the supplementary calcium you need to perform physical exercises like walking, cycling, swimming or other freehand exercises. Moreover, once you attain menopause you get susceptible to cardiac diseases just like men! A regular exercise routine not only alleviates your menopausal symptoms but also reduces your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, depression, cardiac diseases, osteoporosis etc.
* The safest and easiest bet for starters is an Aerobic Exercise Schedule which may contain one or more of- walking, cycling, swimming, dancing and other similar activities. Always remember to start slow and let your body adapt to your full fledged schedule gradually. Warming up before exercising is of paramount importance and so is the cooling down at the end. In your 30-45 minutes (ideal span) of exercise schedule first five minutes should be consumed in warming up at slow pace and last five minutes for slowing down gradually, as if to let your body return to its resting state. Keep yourself enough hydrated. Sipping water every few minutes can be a more feasible idea than starting with a large gulp of fluid at the beginning.
* Weight training, although misunderstood by many as “feat of the young”, if done in moderation and discipline can help menopausal/post-menopausal women to strengthen their bones and maintain good muscle tones! Weight training is basically putting small amount of resistance to your muscles which needs no dumbbell or barbell and can simply be achieved using household objects like, lifting two bottles of water, one liter each to start with. Such weight lifting exercises can be done in alternate days with aerobic exercises. Like I said before, do no exert yourself to maximum and this word of caution is applicable for aerobic exercise schedule too. To know whether you're exerting too much there's a simple way. Try exchanging small talks with a person beside you while performing exercises. If you're fine with that you're doing it right and if you're too breathless to talk then you should know that it is time to slow down.
* Before planning your six days exercise schedule (3 days aerobic + 3 days weight training) get yourself thoroughly checked by a physician to see if there's by chance an preexisting disorder that might complicate your health status. Even when you're apparently healthy, do not hesitate to stop your exercise at any moment you encounter symptoms like- palpitation, tightness of chest, breathlessness, profuse sweating, lightheadedness or nausea.
Today's talk on how we can combine good Nutrition and Exercise to combat evil Menopause ends here, and I hope I could share some useful tips to handle menopause little more positively. Although I'm not a woman, being in close association with many I too can feel what a vulnerable and anxious period it is in any woman's life. Obviously we can't manipulate natural courses so as to channelize them our way but we can certainly take few healthy steps and fine-tune our approach with a bigger goal to explore the beautiful life beyond it. By the way, did anyone ever tell you that life begins at 40?