Perimenopause hits us at a stage in our life when we are so busy. And being busy makes it hard to prioritise our health above everything else that we are saying yes to, especially if our symptoms are fairly minor and not inconveniencing us all the time.
As a nutritionist, my approach is rarely a quick fix solution; my recommendations are often about changing your nutrition and lifestyle habits. It might be swapping up the foods you choose to eat, introducing foods you don’t normally have and avoiding your favourites. It might be learning to say no and not taking any more on, it might be getting some outdoor air and sunshine. Changing your habits is hard to start with, until they just become part of your routine.
To make it easier to find the time and space to change your habits, it’s important to have a really good reason why - why do you want to focus on your health? What will happen if you don’t?
For women in perimenopause, it’s especially important to focus on yourself. Here are just a few reasons why you need to take the time and make the effort to prioritise your health now
1. It will help to ease your menopausal journey
Symptoms associated with the menopausal transition are common and for some women can be quite debilitating. I’ve known women who refuse to leave the house because of flooding periods and others that have lost all confidence in themself as they can’t find any clothes that make them feel good. Many of these symptoms are not actually because of menopause itself but instead they are due to the hormonal changes in the body exacerbating another issue altogether. Breast pain and vaginal dryness may be due to nutrient deficiencies and abdominal weight gain resulting from insulin resistance. Whilst the changing hormones might exacerbate these issues, they are not the cause. Nutrient deficiencies can be addressed by changing up the foods you eat, improving gut health and/or taking nutrient supplementation; insulin resistance may be managed by being less sedentary and reducing the consumption of simple carbohydrates. So by prioritising your health, improving your fitness, altering your food choices, it is possible to minimise the severity of your symptoms, making your menopausal journey easier.
2. It can reduce the likelihood of heart-related disease.
The likelihood of a heart-related disease is all about minimising your risk. Women are more at risk than men; women over 55 are at greatest risk. It seems that the hormonal changes of perimenopause plays a role as it negatively alters the lipid profile (cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL & HDL), increases fat deposition and reduces the vasodilation effect as oestrogen declines. We also know that people with Diabetes Type I, smoking, obesity and a lack of physical activity also increase the risk in both men and women. And then there is an increased risk associated with those that have had preeclampsia or have PCOS. And so, it makes sense to reduce your risk by the ways that you can. You can’t change some things but you can change your food and lifestyle habits. And for women in their 40s, prioritising physical activity, reducing waist circumference (through changes to food choices and eating patterns), and exposure to endocrine-disruptors will improve their cardio-vascular health now before it gets worse in the future.
3. It may prevent the onset or worsening of autoimmune disease.
Women are more likely to have autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis than men; women are also more likely to have poly-autoimmunity. It seems that the key hormonal events in a woman's life, like puberty, pregnancy and menopause, affect the immune system. There’s a delicate balance between oestrogen, progesterone and other sex hormones with the cellular immune response and pro and anti inflammatory cytokines. Women who are also exposed to endocrine disruptors like plastics also have an increased incidence. Once again, whilst you can’t change your genetic predisposition, you can change the way your genes are turned on or off by changing your nutrition and lifestyle habits.
4. It reduces the risk of developing Alzheimers disease
Although Alzheimer’s disease may not be diagnosed until later in life it seems that it may begin much earlier during perimenopause. It has been associated with the fluctuating levels of oestrogen affecting the hypothalamus in the brain as the hormones change during perimenopause. We also know that there is an increased risk of depression during perimenopause, especially in those that have suffered premenstrual or postpartum depression, and those that suffer hot flushes/night sweats, insomnia, are stressed and have an elevated body mass index (BMI). By addressing weight, sleep and stress as well as oestrogen metabolism, nutrition and lifestyle changes during perimenopause can reduce some of the contributing factors.
Prior to perimenopause, you may have got away with poor food choices or lifestyle habits but now you are in your 40s, this is one of the last windows of opportunity to turn it all around to be fit and well in the second half of your life.
If you need help changing your habits and prioritising your health this year, book a discovery call with me to find out how I can help you.
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