Part of my role as Nutritionist at Inside Out Personal Training in Edinburgh is providing talks to members on various nutrition topics. Last week I gave a talk focusing on middle age and the menopause. The information was relevant for those in their 40s, 50s or 60s.
Midlife is often a time for reflection about your diet and lifestyle, and a good time to check that you are getting all the key nutrients you need for good health.
Some common concerns or areas that start to become more pronounced in middle age include:
Maintaining your muscle strength
Changes in eye heath and vision
Changing body shape and / or putting on weight
Your diet and activity can have a positive impact on all of these and, during the talk, I explained what the key dietary considerations are for supporting your body through middle age.
One important area to consider is how to support your heart health. More than twice as many people are living with heart and circulatory diseases than with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined (BHF Statistics August 2019). Heart and circulatory disease causes more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK. Having a healthy weight and doing regular activity are important for heart health. Here’s a few key nutrients that can help keep your heart healthy.
Omega-3 fatty acids – these polyunsaturated fatty acids are beneficial for heart health. They help lower cholesterol and protect against the build-up of plaque in arteries. They can also help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
Vitamin D - it is thought that vitamin D helps support heart function by improving the elasticity of blood vessels.
Vitamin E – is important for healthy circulation, nerve and muscle function and as an antioxidant it helps protect damaged cells.
Folate and Folic Acid – has a key role in the formation of red blood cells and along with some other B-vitamins (B6 and B12) it helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Potassium – has a key role in regulating the electrical activity of the heart and reducing the risk of stroke.
The second half of the talk I gave focused on the menopause. At this point, I encouraged all the male members to keep listening as it’s important to increase awareness among both men and women regarding the implications of the menopause. In the UK, over 4.3 million employed women are aged 45-60, so a significant number of employed women will be working through their menopausal transition.
The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51, however it can occur quite normally between 40 and 60 years. Regular activity, having a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet are important to consider when it comes to managing the menopause and making sure you get all the nutrients you need at this stage of life.
Some of the key nutrients I covered were:
Calcium is important for helping to reduce the losses of bone density that over time can lead to osteoporosis. The decrease in oestrogen at menopause leads to an increase in bone turnover, a decrease in bone mineral density and increased fracture risk. Calcium is found in a variety of foods including dairy foods like yoghurt, cheese and milk; fortified milk alternatives; fish with edible small bones like sardines or pilchards; soy beans and soy products; green vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage (but not spinach, due to the oxalates in spinach which prevents the absorption of calcium); and nuts and sesame seeds.
Vitamin D helps the body to incorporate calcium into bones.
Protein is also important for helping to maintain muscle mass and supporting the skeletal structure.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for keeping your heart healthy (as mentioned above). As oestrogen levels fall with the menopause, cardiovascular disease risk increases. It’s important to get the right balance of fats. Unsaturated oils like olive oil and cold pressed rapeseed oil are great choices. The main dietary source of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids is from oily fish, although plant sources such as flax seeds or chia seeds are also useful.
Photo: Some of the Inside Out Personal Training Members!
For advice on HRT and other therapeutic options including herbal remedies, please seek advice from your GP.
If you’d like a more in depth nutrition advice tailored to your needs, I offer individual nutrition consultations at Inside Out Personal Training, Edinburgh. For more information see my website page: https://www.laurawyness.com/consultations
Some useful evidence-based links:
www.ManageMyMenopause.co.uk – A new website developed by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and supported by the British Menopause Society provides tailored, unbiased and accurate menopausal advice for women, provided by experts.
www.MenopauseMatters.co.uk – An award winning, independent website providing up-to-date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options.
www.Womens-Health-Concern.org – This is the patient arm of the British Menopause Society. They offer unbiased information on gynaecological and sexual health, wellbeing and lifestyle concerns. There are fact sheets on various topics here: https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/
In November 2015 NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) published Guidelines on Menopause. There is a simplified version of these guidelines here: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23/informationforpublic