Over 50's Women's Health: Am I Normal?

When you reach your 50's, many things in your life are bound to change: kids growing up and moving out of home, a change of workplace and most importantly, changes in your health. This week, we are going to discuss some common health issues that affect women in their 50's to celebrate Women's Health Week!

Menopause

One of the most important things that happens in women in mid-life is menopause. Menopause is defined as the cessation of your period in 12 consecutive months and it typically occurs when women are 45-55 years of age. You can go through early or premature menopause as a result of surgery or cancer treatment, where there can be a sudden drop in all of these hormones, causing symptoms to be more severe.

Why is menopause such a big deal?

When you go through menopause, you experience changes in levels of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. The changes in hormone levels change over the months and years as your approach menopause. This results in symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, weight gain, depression and osteoporosis. Mild to moderate symptoms seem to affect up to 60% of women. 

Chronic Health Conditions related to menopause

1. Cardiovascular disease

Oestrogen has a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. So when you reduce your levels of his hormone in menopause, your risk of getting cardiovascular disease increases. This includes conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. 

Changes in fat distribution from your hips to your tummy (abdominal obesity), as well as from fat underneath your skin (subcutaneous) to around your internal organs (visceral) contribute to this increased risk of cardiovascular disease as well. This can significantly impact how you see yourself, in terms of body image. Women in mid-life tend to gain weight and change their body shape, not only due to hormonal changes but due to environmental factors: physical inactivity and sitting down more. 

2. Osteoporosis

Did you know that the average woman loses up to 10% of her bone mass in her first 5 years of menopause? Reducing your bone mass significantly increases your risk of getting osteoporosis, a condition where you have weaker bones and are at a greater risk of fracture. We accumulate bone mass from childhood up to 25-30 years of age and this declines with age. So when we lose the protective effect that oestrogen has on our bones during and after menopause, we need to be much more vigilant about maintaining our bone mass (hint: this can be done with exercise!).

3. Breast Cancer

Starting menopause after 55 years of age increases a women's risk of breast and endometrical cancer - this is likely due to a greater exposure of oestrogen over the lifespan. This is an issue that needs to be considered as you reach your mid-life, as changes to your lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk of getting these kinds of cancers. 

4. Mental illness

Changes in your hormone levels can cause your emotions to change quickly, which may result in depressed moods and anxious feelings that women can sometimes feel around menopause. The symptoms of menopause can also affect mood and can make women feel depressed. For example, if you have poor sleep quality because of night sweats, this could result in a negative mood and negative thoughts. 

Are you getting your daily dose of exercise?

Extensive research has shown that regular and specific kinds of exercise can result in many benefits throughout your lifespan - especially when you're in your 50's!

Specific kinds of exercise can greatly improve your health outcomes and wellbeing. For example, strength training and weight-bearing activities beyond just walking can help you maintain your bone strength; reducing your risk of osteoporosis and a fracture. 

Balanced Bodies Lifestyle Clinic is here to help!

Our Exercise Physiologists at Balanced Bodies Lifestyle Clinic have extensive experience working with men and women in their 50's and beyond. We have worked with many people with different health concerns and are more than willing to help you in your exercise! If you would like to inquire about how we can help you, please contact us on 0419 287 631 or info@bblifestyleclinic.com.au.