Combating Inflammation During Menopause
Amy is 50 years old and is post-menopausal. She has successfully maintained her weight. However, she is puzzled and discouraged by the fact that her clothing size has steadily increased from a size 8 to a size 12 and she has lost a ½-inch of height. See Table below for her biometrics.
Age 20 Biometrics
Age 50 Biometrics
What’s going on here? As women begin menopause, they experience significant physiological changes that can impact their overall health and well-being. One crucial aspect affected by these changes is inflammation, which can lead to bone loss, muscle wasting, and weight gain. In this blog, we will explore the relationship between inflammation and menopause and discuss effective strategies to combat these issues, focusing on maintaining muscle mass, preventing weight gain, and minimizing bone loss.
Four Impacts of Menopause on the Body
Women experience four significant changes in their body during menopause:
Lower Estrogen Levels: Menopause brings about a significant decline in estrogen levels, which can potentially contribute to bone loss.
Loss of Muscle Mass: With age, women may experience sarcopenia—a progressive loss of muscle mass and quality. This decline occurs at a rate of 5% per decade between ages 30 and 50 and accelerates to 1% per year after age 50. Muscle quality decreases due to inflammatory factors such as oxidative damage to motor neurons and decreased production of nerve growth factors.
Increased Body Fat: Loss of muscle may be replaced by increased adipose tissue, leading to a rise in body fat even if body weight remains the same. The less dense fat tissue can also contribute to an increase in girth.
Decreased Metabolism: Metabolism is the rate at which calories are burned. Muscle burns more calories than fat, therefore, with muscle loss, there is a decrease in metabolism and an increased risk for weight gain if dietary intake does not change.
Combat Inflammation and Degeneration during Menopause
Today we will focus on three main goals for combatting inflammation and degeneration during Menopause:
Preserve Muscle Mass: Engage in regular strength or resistance training 2-3 times a week to combat muscle wasting or decline in muscle quality. This can help avoid weight gain and maintain or even improve overall strength. Incorporating enjoyable activities into your daily routine will improve circulation and decrease inflammation. Try moving at least 3-5 minutes every hour, this can be productive steps such as taking a few minutes doing quick house or office chores (cleaning, sweeping, mopping, laundry, etc). Once you are moving 3-5 minutes most hours throughout the day, then begin engaging in high-impact aerobics, running, jumping rope, to further promote bone health. However, if you have osteoporosis, focus on low-impact exercises, trampoline exercises, walking, swimming, stability and core strength exercise, and avoid all high-impact exercises.
Monitor Caloric Intake: Consider your food choices and portion as caloric needs decrease with age and muscle mass loss. Increasing foods that are high in fiber and water but are low in calories (fruit, vegetables, cooked whole grains, legumes) can help you reach satiety without extra calories. In this way you can adjust your diet and maintain a healthy weight. The more you limit animal, sugar, and/or caffeinated products the less inflammation is taken into the body and the less calcium is pulled from the bone to neutralize the acids in the meat, dairy, or sugary/caffeinated products and the easier it is to maintain your weight. Too much sodium can also rob your bones of needed calcium.
Get Sun Exposure: Vitamin D, obtained from sunlight, is essential for bone health. Spend some time outdoors especially between the hours of 10 am to 3 pm to ensure adequate vitamin D levels. This will also help with improving sleep which is the time the body has for restoration and repair.
Amy has been experiencing bone loss and decreases in metabolism. She has been able to maintain her body weight because she has adjusted her dietary intake throughout the years. For many women, weight gain will occur because caloric intake tends to remain relatively consistent and does not decrease with age without a conscious effort.
At 130 pounds, Amy's caloric expenditure per day dropped by 100-200 calories from age 20 to age 50, and 300-500 after age 50 because she has not been exercising or doing any strength training.
By incorporating the above goals into her lifestyle, she can begin losing inches and slowly but surely reduce her pant size, while still maintaining her weight.
As women approach and experience menopause, the physiological changes that occur during this stage can lead to inflammation, impacting bone health, muscle mass, and weight. By incorporating regular outdoor aerobic exercise, strength training, reducing inflammatory foods and increasing low calorie, high-fiber, high-water foods intake, women can combat inflammation and maintain overall health throughout the entire cycle of life.
It is never too late to start taking care of your body. Embrace the life changes, prioritize your well-being, and adopt a proactive approach to living a healthy, fulfilling life throughout every stage of life!
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