As women age, the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis increases, especially after menopause.
The fatality rate for heart disease and stroke are 1 in 3 for women. But not many are aware of these ‘silent killers’ when it comes to women’s health.
As a woman ages, her risk of heart disease increases, especially after menopause. After menopause, LDL-Cholesterol, the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol levels rise and estrogen levels drop. A decline in estrogen plus an unhealthy lifestyle lead to an increase in heart disease.
According to the National Health Survey, about 25 per cent of women aged 50-59 have high cholesterol levels which are seven per cent higher than males.
How to Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Women can reduce cholesterol levels by:
- Limiting saturated fats (from animal and plant sources) – such as processed foods, poultry skin and fats, cheese, butter and palm oil
- Limiting trans fats – such as baked goods, margarine, fast food, fried food and non-dairy creamer
- Increasing your intake of unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocado, oily fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) and plant proteins
- Increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, beans and oats. Take seafood once a week, organs and meat once a month and 3 to 4 egg yolks weekly
Decreasing Hypertension with The DASH Diet
DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was developed by researchers in the United States to reduce blood pressure – and therefore, LDL cholesterol. It was ranked the best overall diet by the US News & World report from 2011 to 2014.
The diet includes fish, plant protein, lean and skinless meat & poultry, fruits & vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. It also encourages a reduction in the intake of fat and sodium. It is a safe and effective diet for weight loss, reduces the risk of diabetes and improves heart health.
Women’s Health and Osteoporosis
In the last 30 years, osteoporotic hip fractures have gone up five-fold in women aged 50 and above.
Imagine breaking a bone from bumping into your sofa or just sneezing. That’s what happens if you develop osteoporosis – a medical condition where bones are brittle and fragile due to the loss of bone mass and density.
Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men. Research shows that 1 in 3 women over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
After menopause, the fall in the production of estrogen leads to bone loss and increases the risk of fracture. Women lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years after menopause. The various risk-factors affecting women include a diet low in calcium and Vitamin D, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking.
Ways to Promote Bone Health
Eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamins can improve the health of your bones. Good sources of calcium and vitamins are:
- Calcium: Soybean products, canned fish with bones, natural almonds and dark green-vegetables
- Vitamin D (helps promote absorption of dietary calcium): Sunlight exposure at least twice a week, eggs, oily fish and fortified dairy products like margarine
- Vitamin K (helps increase bone mineral density, reduce fracture rates and positively affects calcium balance): Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts
- Magnesium (converts Vitamin D to an active form and helps build strong bones): Nuts, seeds, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables
- Potassium (conserves calcium and reduces urinary calcium loss): fruit and vegetables
Exercises such as weight-bearing and resistance training help strengthen bones! Jogging, taking the stairs, dancing, using resistance bands or your own bodyweight to build strength, and carrying groceries improve overall bone health.
Things to avoid for Bone Health
- A daily salt intake > 2000mg of sodium
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time (Sitting is the new smoking!)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Women’s Health and Menopause
Women gain an average of five kilograms around menopause.
The average age of women hitting menopause is 51. Besides the hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbance and mood changes, they have weight-gain to look forward to – especially around their abdomen.
Effect of Menopause on Muscle Mass and Weight
It is more difficult for women in their 40s and 50s to lose weight. The fall in oestrogen level during menopause leads to the loss of muscle mass. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, lesser muscle means fewer calories burned – which leads to weight gain. Fat also tends to accumulate around the abdomen leading to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Making Dietary Changes
Maintaining a healthy weight is possible with healthy eating! Small changes to your diet can control menopausal weight gain. Cutting only 200 calories daily can help you maintain your weight in your 50s.
What do 200 calories look like?
- 1 doughnut
- 1 banana fritter (goreng pisang)
- 4 lollipops
- A 20-minute run
Follow these simple diet tips to avoid a “midlife metabolic crisis”:
- Do not skip meals
- Choose wholegrains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein
- Reduce fat and sugar
- Eat small, frequent meals of protein-rich foods (they make you feel full for longer)
- Avoid eating while watching TV or in front of the computer as you’d tend to over-eat
- Avoid stress and emotional eating
You may also want to try these “incidental exercises” as part of your daily routine:
- Parking your car farther from your destination
- Not driving if you are going to a place you can walk to
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Getting up to change channels on your TV or stereo instead of using the remote
Ageing may be inevitable, but healthy ageing – that’s a choice!