Women’s Health: Boost Your Health at Each Stage of Your Life
By Dr. Sophia Ma, Naturopathic Doctor
As women, we are warriors when it comes to work, family and society at large. At Simcoe Place Health Clinic, we want you to thrive whether you’re celebrating your 20s or your 60s. To help you stay healthy no matter what age you are, here is a decade-by-decade guide to supporting your superwoman self.
The 20s: Build Your Base
Many women are starting new careers and families during their 20s. As you build professionally and personally, it’s important to make time to assess your baseline and establish healthy habits that will benefit you for a lifetime. To create your base for health:
- Schedule a check-up. This includes having blood work done to establish your baseline measures when you are in relatively good health.
- Establish healthy habits. Eating a nutritious diet, engaging in regular exercise and establishing stress management strategies are integral to paving the way for a life of wellness.
- See your local naturopathic doctor (ND) or regular health care provider to fine tune and optimize your health regimen. Whether you require a good quality multivitamin or a targeted nutritional approach, speak to a health professional who can create an individualized health plan for you.
- Fertility planning. Whether you’re planning to start a family in the next two, five or ten years, speak to your local ND about natural ways to support fertility and healthy conception.
The 30s: Find Your Balance
By this time, many women are immersed in the grind of work life, planning for or managing a growing family and noticing health changes.
- Listen to your body. While it was easy to bounce back from pulling an all-nighter in your 20s, many women in their 30s are surprised to find that their body’s ability to rebound has diminished. This is a key time to tune-in to your body and watch for telltale signs that it may need more support to maintain the performance levels of your 20s. Signs that indicate a need to up your health game include: increased fatigue, lower threshold for stress and a slowing metabolism.
- Consider your adrenal health. As women engage in more roles and responsibilities, our bodies are placed under more pressure and our adrenal glands are forced to deal with the increasing stress load. Common signs that your adrenal glands may be overburdened include: fatigue, need for caffeine, cravings for sweets or salt, frequent infections, and/or sleep troubles. To support the adrenals, speak to a health practitioner about vitamin C, magnesium and B vitamins, nutrients which your body burns through during periods of high or chronic stress.
- Review your family history. Familiarize yourself with your family’s health history so you can start being proactive about prevention. Common conditions to ask family members about include: diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease) and cancer.
The 40s: Prepare Your Body
During their 40s, many women notice changes in their menstrual cycles as the body starts its transition into pre and perimenopause. When women experience menstrual changes they often also experience weight gain, mood changes, sleep disruption, joint pain and hot flashes; signs that our bodies are undergoing hormonal shifts and experiencing imbalances that require additional support.
- Support your body for change. Symptoms indicating a need for hormonal balancing and support include: irregular cycles, excessive or minimal bleeding, menstrual pain, headaches, breast tenderness, bloating and/or mood changes, hot flashes, weight gain and/or joint pain. During this time of change it is important to support hormonal health to prevent menopausal symptoms and lower risks associated with post-menopause.
- Maintain your metabolism. One of the most common complaints with pre/peri-menopause is a slowing metabolism and weight gain. This can occur with hormonal imbalances stemming from the thyroid, adrenal glands and/or ovaries which work synergistically. An imbalance with one gland can impact function of the others. Speak to a healthcare practitioner if you are noticing weight gain without dietary change. Be sure to ask about herbs and nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium and fatty acids for hormonal balance.
- Make time to relax and restore. As the ovaries start to wind down production of sex hormones, the adrenal glands step up and become the primary producer of sex as well as stress hormones. Though stress management and adrenal support are important through all stages of life, they become essential during pre/perimenopause when the adrenal glands begin to work double duty. It’s important during this time to make time for rest and relaxation.
The 50s: Thriving through Menopause
Menopause starts one year after your periods have stopped. Though menstruation may have ended, the changes to our bodies continue. Often accompanying menopause are bone loss and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Build bone. Supporting bone health goes beyond supplementing with calcium alone. You may also need to supplement nutrients such as magnesium, boron, strontium, collagen and vitamin C. Most important of all is incorporating weight bearing exercise to strengthen the muscles and stimulate bone growth.
- Love your heart. When estrogen levels fall, inflammation increases, and blood vessels become hardened leading to an higher risk of heart disease. Make sure to monitor your blood pressure, see your doctor for regular health checks and speak to a health practitioner about heart healthy nutrients such as magnesium, CoQ10, and fish oil.
- Eat for healthy blood sugar. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels are very important for reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, maintaining hormonal balance and preventing weight gain. Unfortunately, the rate of diabetes increases as women approach menopause. Make sure to support your diet with lots of healthy fiber, exercise and if you notice your blood sugar creeping up, speak to a health practitioner about nutrients such as chromium, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid and herbs such as cinnamon, gymenma and Korean ginseng.
The 60s: Bolster your body and brain
- Keep those joints fresh. As you age, your joints can begin to show signs of wear and tear. Supporting joint health starts with proper nutrition, movement and hydration. If you’re noticing joint pain, creaking or lack of mobility, it’s time to have your joints assessed and to consider low-weight bearing exercises and stretching with the proper guidance. Nutritionally, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids and turmeric can all help to reduce inflammation, reduce pain and support joint healing.
- Boost your brain. Many people begin to worry about their memory and cognition as they age. Supporting healthy circulation, blood sugar and staying mentally and socially engaged are key to keeping your brain buff. To support brain health eat a diet rich in healthy fats (avocado, fish, nuts and seeds), and speak to a health practitioner about nutrients such as a B complex, omega 3 and acetyl-l-carnitine.Herbs such as gingko, bacopa and periwinkle have also been shown to support cognition. Perhaps most important is the “use it or lose it” rule: make sure to keep your brain engaged! The best way to do this is to learn a new skill (ex. a new language) and to involve yourself in social activities.
Health is important regardless of your age. Many of the suggestions outlined above don’t apply to just one decade of life. Whether you are in your 20s or 60s, giving your body the proper love and attention through diet, nutrition, exercise and relaxation will help you lead a long, happy and healthy life.
Book a consultation with Dr. Ma to find out what you can do to make sure you are the healthiest you can be, now and in the future.