Staying well during the change
The Change. These two words conjure different scenarios for different people but for women between the ages of 45 and 55, (the average age being 51), it means one thing: the change of life, otherwise known as menopause. Im sure youve heard many jokes on the subject but for those of you who are experiencing it, its anything but a joke. Normally a guy like me wouldnt have a clue about what a woman goes through during this time, but as a personal trainer I have worked with a few women over the years that were experiencing menopause, so I thought I would share with you this week a few things Ihave learned from them.Menopause occurs when a womans ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen. Before menopause, this hormone is released each monthly period and prepares the uterus for pregnancy. In addition, it stimulates skeletal growth, helps maintain healthy bones, and protects the heart and veins by increasing the bodys HDL (good cholesterol) and reduces the LDL (bad cholesterol). The ovaries produce about 90 percent of the bodys estrogen; with the adrenal glands, liver, and kidneys making up the rest. In addition to estrogen, the ovaries also produce another hormone called progesterone. This hormone stimulates the growth of the cushy lining of the uterus where the fertilized egg grows, helps make the breast milk, and maintains the pregnancy.
As Im sure you can imagine, a number of changes occur to a woman, both physically and mentally, when she enters menopause. Since I am obviously not a physician I will stay away from hormone replacement therapy and focus on the health and fitness options.The body experiences severe changes, the menstrual period stops, and the walls of the vagina become thinner with less lubrication available. A woman may become tired, moody and irritable. Many jokes have been conjured that go with this, but if you are going through this you know it is no laughing matter. You are probably asking why a trainer is writing about a female change of life. Believe it or not, there are a few things you can do to help make the change without going out of your mind. Your diet and a regular exercise program will make this transition a little less painful.
Two main health problems that may arise during this time are osteoporosis, where the bones become thin and porous making them weak and prone to breaks; and cardiovascular disease. Although less dangerous but every bit as real are the hot flashes and night sweats that induce interrupted sleep and may make a woman feel tired, moody, and irritable. The hot flashes do not only occur at night, so things to do during the day are to dress in layers, avoid hot spicy foods and alcohol, and try to reduce stress in your life. Your diet may also benefit by avoiding caffeine, smoking, and saturated fats, and adding whole grains, cold-pressed oils, leafy greens, nuts, and soy.
Get to the gym and do as much cardiovascular exercise as possible to eliminate stress and to help strengthen your heart and lungs. Start a moderate weight-bearing program (lifting weights) to help keep healthy bone density. If you are suffering from hot flashes during your workouts, try using a fan to keep you cool. Most gyms have them on the floor so it should not be a problem to get one. As you may have seen in past columns, exercise is not only for physical development, but will also help reduce stress and give you a better nights sleep. If you are new to working out and are not sure were to begin, give me a call for a few helpful tips to get you started. Before you begin any exercise routine I do recommend talking to your physician. Work hard, eat right, and as always stay hydrated.Henry Kliebenstein is an International Sports Sciences Assoc. certified personal trainer, fitness therapist, and specialist in performance nutrition, training in his private studio in Truckee, and can be reached by calling 587-3886 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.