Photo by Woodley Wonderworks
This is the concluding post for the Women”s Hormonal Phases series. The Women’s Hormonal Phase series discuss the hormonal changes we go through in our lifetime from our teens to after menopause. Each posts discuss what is going on with our bodies at each stage, the health challenges, and possible solutions.
This stage in our lives is very dear to me because the whole reason I started blogging is to remind people that staying physically independent as we age starts in our youth. Most of the decline we experience in our bodies comes from disuse. You move it or you lose it!
What is happening to our bodies?
It is all about staying off that rocker after menopause. There are definitely examples of physically active elderly women we can use as our inspiration. Sure, we do not have the abs of a 20 year old, but that does not mean we become a cream filled donut either after menopause.
As I write this post, my 72 years old landlady is out jogging around the neighborhood. She still bowls and does tai chi most day of the week. Her husband plays golf, fish, and bikes most day of the week as well. And they are always in our yard doing gardening for us. I want to be just as physically active as them when I get to their age.
Most of the decline we experience after menopause comes from disuse. After the age of 50, we start to lose 1 pound of muscle year. After 3 years, we lose the ability to burn 150 calories each day, which is the equivalent of 14 pounds of weight gain a year. As I mentioned previously, strength training is important in your 30s, critical in your 40s, but vital after your 50s for weight maintenance (we not even talking about weight loss yet).
A pound of muscle lost translate to less that we can do for ourselves. I am talking about cooking, cleaning, bending, or showering. Just our normal everyday chores that we taken for granted in our youth.
We might start to even worry about developing dementia or Alzheimer”s after menopause. In a centenarians study, most of these women stayed physically and mentally active throughout their lives. These women”s rate of dementia and Alzheirmer”s is much lower than the general population because they eat healthy, exercises, reduced stress, and exercise their minds by reading and journaling (that”s an excellent excuse to start blogging!).
Our health challenges:
Wear and tear
After years of use, it is normal for our bodies to have some wear and tear after menopause. Just because you have a bad knee, does not mean it is an excuse to sit out the rest of your days. Do that and the days are probably not going to be that long. The key here is adapt to change. Can”t run, what about swimming or yoga? Afraid to of the bending in yoga, what about tai chi? We adapt to our physical limitations all the time, why should it be any different after menopause? I have back problems from my car accident, but I still work out. There are some exercises that I will not do anymore, like the dead lift, because I know that it would aggravate my back so I do other back exercises instead.
I really hope that you have been taking calcium supplements since your 20s. Estrogen helps protect our bone mass. After menopause and the decline of estrogen, the fast forward button is activated so osteoporosis is a major threat. 80% of osteoporosis patients are women and your chances are higher if you have given birth.
During our peak biological reproductive years (which correspond with our peak estrogen production), calcium is stored more readily to ensure higher bone density since pregnancy depletes some of our calcium. Our bodies are design around reproduction! You can find more information about this idea by reading my fat cell posts. Denser bones means stronger bones.
After 35, the calcium still helps with bone density, but without strength training, we are just maintaining the status quo. Mother Nature pretty much assumes that we are done having babies after the age of 35, hence our bodies are develop to store calcium less effectively.
Becoming a hermit, especially after the death of a spouse.
Now is not the time to hide. Mental decline often follows less social interaction.
Possible solutions to stay healthy after 60:
After menopause, it is natural to eat less frequently. We are adjusting to less physical activity and our changing taste in food. Go for fruits and veggies that have a deep, rich color to get the highest levels of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
Eat red (no, not red meat)
In the Nun study, researchers found that 70% of those with the highest levels of blood lycopene (an antioxidant found in tomatoes and red fruits) live 6 years longer than the other centenarians in the study. So start thinking red when you grocery shop for fruits and veggies.
Start taking calcium supplements
Most post-menopause women physically decline quickly after a broken hip or thigh bone. Do not let this happen to you. After menopause, you should be getting 1000-1200 mg of calcium a day. I tell my mother to aim for 1000 mg since she also consume calcium from fortified juice and veggies. I just absolutely adore the Viactiv Soft Calcium Chews. It is like eating candy for my supplements.
Expand your social group to including women that are younger than you.
We tend to spend more time with people that are in the same age group as us. Now is the time to start spending more time with that niece, granddaughter, daughter, or younger friend. Sometimes the difference between a nursing home and staying in your own home could just be having someone drop off groceries for you. My elderly grandmother still live by herself. But my mother and aunts take turns to drop off food for her everyday.
Do your own chores for as long as possible.
Chores are not chores when they help maintain your physical independence after menopause. Chores are physical activity. We need to keep moving in order to maintain the ability to move in future years. Though the clerk at the grocery store meant well by wanting to push that cart out to the car for you, you should absolutely refuse unless you are physically unable to do it yourself.
Declining estrogen hormones after menopause does not mean a life sitting in a rocker. Live well after menopause and stay healthy.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
- Is Soy Isoflavones Good for You? – Part 2
- The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife & Beyond – Book Review
- Is PMS a sign of Hormonal Imbalance?
- Women Hormonal Phases – Your Teens Through Your Early 20s
- Male Menopause and Restoring the Hormonal Balance
- Women’s Hormonal Phases – Your Early 40s Through Your Early 50s
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