Women Need to Take Care of Themselves as They Age
By Deb Dittner
As women age, many changes begin to take place within the body and if we look at the whole picture, everything seems to be interrelated. Hormones, weight and body changes, heart health, Alzheimer’s and more are all a part of the aging process for women.
Cardiovascular disease is the foremost cause of death for women,
leading to one in three deaths per year. As women age, especially through midlife, you should be dedicated to your body and how you feel. Heart disease risk factors worsen throughout menopause through arterial stiffness and can contribute to a long list of symptoms. Symptoms of menopause such as brain fog, belly fat, insomnia, hot flashes, headaches, decreased energy, fatigue, menstrual and sexual irregularities, and dizziness can interrelate with other conditions.
Taking care of yourself from a young age by having a healthy lifestyle, not smoking, maintaining physical activity, relieving stress, being active in the community and socially aware, managing appropriate blood pressure and nurturing a healthy weight through a whole nutrient dense diet will all contribute to a healthier you.
Prevention is the key factor in reducing cardiovascular disease as there is no one specific treatment. Women need to be proactive in cardiovascular health and follow up with a primary care provider. You need a provider to listen intently as symptoms can overlap, making a diagnosis harder.
Not only is cardiovascular disease a concern for women as they age but so is Alzheimer’s. Approximately two-thirds of those living with Alzheimer’s are women. Some of the numbers may be due to the fact that women tend to live longer than men, but other risk factors do exist. During menopause there are changes occurring in the brain consisting of decreased amounts of grey and white matter, increased plaque levels and how the brain metabolizes glucose at a lesser rate. Add this to cognitive tests, blood pressure readings and a family history and it can suggest risks for Alzheimer’s.
During menopause, hormone levels fluctuate. Estrogen decreases and tends to be part of the abnormalities associated with Alzheimer’s. This may also be related to the fact that women tend to have higher anxiety and depression than men, and also greater headache and migraine concerns. Also, women have greater autoimmune issues, some of which attack the brain, such as multiple sclerosis.
Therefore, hormones play a delicate role in women’s health from brain energy associated with Alzheimer’s and arterial stiffness associated with cardiovascular disease.
So, what is a woman to do?
To add to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, let’s discuss Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is associated with the endocrine and hormone system of the body and attention needs to be paid to the factors contributing to this disease as well. By maintaining a whole nutrient dense clean diet full of flavor and health benefits, you will be less likely to develop this condition. Foods to include are healthy fats (olive oil, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts, seeds and avocados), whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Be aware of your menopause status by discussing signs and symptoms with your healthcare provider, monitoring your blood pressure, and blood values (blood sugar, HgA1c, cholesterol, lipoproteins, inflammatory markers to name a few) and knowing your family history. Prevention is important through lifestyle changes, maintaining a whole nutrient dense diet and eating clean, eliminating (as much as possible) exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), lead, phthalates, parabens, PCBs, flame retardants, pesticides, dioxins, and many more, maintaining a regular exercise program (one that you like) most days of the week, stress reduction through meditation, yoga, emotional freedom technique, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and getting a restful night’s sleep.
Making small changes over time add up and support the management of women’s health for years to come.
For more information on clean foods and products, go to www.ewg.org for listings of the clean 15 and dirty dozen, food scores and healthy living products.
Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes.
For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.