Age is just a number that holds true for many women in their 40s today. However, there are subtle changes that are going on within the body that impacts the coming decade. The ability of the body to convert food to energy and thereby the nutritional requirements of food and water all change at this age. Metabolism gets slower. Women lose about half a pound of muscle per year starting around the age of 40. This makes losing weight even more difficult. These changes may be either due to decreased hormones, reduced activity level, and/or medical conditions.
Women in their 40’s
After 40, the levels of the estrogen hormones drop. This can cause insulin to rise since estrogen hormones play a role in bringing the insulin levels down. Thyroid levels can also go down. This combination makes you hungrier. This can lead to consumption of more calories while burning fewer calories. Much of the weight gain occurs around the belly. Belly fat has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
At age 40, women also lose muscle mass twice as fast as men. Lack of muscle activation and crash diets (eating very low amounts of calories to lose weight fast in a short amount of time) can also cause muscle loss. Most of the loss occurs in the core muscles, which supports the abdomen which is another reason for belly fat.
By the age of 40, bones start to break down at a slightly faster pace than your body can rebuild them. Calcium is essential for building new bone, so getting enough is important for boosting bone regrowth as you age. You also need to get enough vitamin D to make sure you’re absorbing calcium. Without enough calcium and vitamin D, your bone regrowth can’t keep up with what’s being broken down, putting you at risk for osteoporosis, bone fractures, and broken bones as you age.
Women in their 50’s
By this age many women are into menopause or almost there. Two of the most common complaints about menopause are hot flashes and night sweats.
A hot flash is a feeling of intense warmth that isn’t caused by an external source. Hot flashes can appear suddenly, or you may feel them coming on over a period of a few minutes. Some hot flashes pass after a few seconds while some may last a few minutes. Frequency for some women may be a few days in the week while for some it may be several in an hour. There is no treatment guaranteed to prevent them. However a few strategies like sipping on ice water, lowering room temperature, using cotton clothing, etc. may help.
Night sweats is another term for excessive perspiration or sweating at night. Night sweats can be uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep. In most cases, they’re not a cause for serious concern. But sometimes, they may be caused by an underlying condition that requires treatment. Your doctor can help diagnose the cause of your night sweats. They can also recommend strategies to prevent or treat the same.
After menopause, when estrogen levels decline, heart disease rates in women become two to three times higher. More than 75 percent of women aged 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for coronary heart disease. But women who eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and don’t smoke are 80 percent less likely to develop heart disease than women who don’t.
Almost everyone experiences some hair loss with time, especially after age 50. Female pattern baldness, a hormone-related condition that may be inherited, usually starts with a widening of the center hair part that spreads to the top and the crown of the scalp. Unlike in male pattern baldness, it rarely claims most or all of a woman’s hair. Whatever your age and the condition of your hair, you can improve its health by avoiding harsh chemicals and treating it gently.
40 to 60
Between the ages of 40 to 60, women typically experience multiple social, psychological and biological challenges, among them the menopausal transition. Being careful and conscious of your nutritional intake becomes even more important once you enter your 40s. Here are some nutritional tips to feel great and stay healthy:
Choose foods with more fiber to keep you feeling full for a longer time and prevent binging. Fiber can be found in whole grains like varieties of millet, brown rice, oats, barley, wheat bran, and more.
Avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugars, white bread, rice noodles and so on.
Increase intake of a variety of non-starchy vegetables such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicums/peppers, varieties of beans and gourds in your daily meals.
Fruits are great sources of fiber and many Phyto-nutrients that really aid in the body’s overall absorption of other nutrients and its functioning.
Women need proteins like lentils, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, eggs, lean meat, or fish. Getting enough protein can keep bones strong and minimize the bone density loss that comes with aging. It also keeps hair and nails looking healthy and strong.
To ensure good bone health choose plenty of calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, fortified milk alternatives like almond milk, leafy greens, and tofu made with calcium sulfate.
Include healthy fat sources in your diet. For example nuts, seeds, and natural oils like peanut/groundnut, olive, and other cold pressed oils.
Avoid foods labeled as ‘diet foods’ as they can play havoc with your appetite. Some can trigger inflammation, alter the healthy bacteria in your gut and overtax your immune system.
Choose from whole foods or foods that are minimally processed and avoid foods with trans fats, excess sugars, salts and fats.
Once you're in your 40s, regular health checkups become more important. This makes sure there is no time wasted in getting any preventative medical attention if needed.
Sufficient water intake and regular exercise are very important.
A healthy lifestyle including weight-bearing exercise, such as walking and strength training, helps keep your bones and muscles strong both before and after menopause. Being physically active can be one of the best methods of keeping symptoms of menopause to a minimum.
The 40s- 60s are truly exciting times in a woman’s life as there are many challenges to face at work, home and life in general. Keeping our bodies at their function best at this time, not only delays the onset of genetically predisposed lifestyle diseases, but ensures we look way younger while we face our fabulous lives.