(BlackDoctor.org) — The aging process is associated with many changes in hormonal and physiological function, some of which are gender related. In women, one of the most dramatic hormonal changes is the striking reduction in estrogen production that accompanies menopause. This period of life has special nutrient requirements.
By definition, a woman is menopausal after her periods have stopped for one year. The 1-5 years that precedes menopause is called perimenopause. During perimenopause, a woman’s body adjusts to a waning and then absent menstrual flow, as well as to the associated bodily changes that result from lower estrogen levels.
Although researchers are just beginning to address the special nutrition needs of menopausal women, it is generally agreed that a diet rich in vegetables, grains, fruits, and calcium and lower in fat, alcohol, calories, and caffeine is a wise choice for women at midlife.
Estrogen levels decline during menopause, and this reduction makes bone more susceptible to calcium loss. Increased calcium intake and moderate weight-bearing exercise are essential to minimize the development of osteoporosis , the debilitating condition that causes fractures in about half of all women over the age of 50.
Driving Down Estrogen Levels May Increase Cholesterol
In 1994, a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Panel recommended that women over the age of 50 who are on estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) should take 1200 milligrams (mgs) of calcium per day, while women not on ERT should take 1500 mg per day. At age 65, all women should take 1500 mg of calcium per day.
Also, women may want to limit the amount of soft drinks consumed daily, as they contain high levels of phosphorus, which may lead to bone loss. It is important to remember to take calcium along with vitamin D, which is absolutely necessary for calcium to be absorbed by your body. The usual recommended dose of Vitamin D is 400 IU daily.
Prior to menopause, estrogen helps protect a woman’s arterial walls from fat and cholesterol buildup by raising the levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering the levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. As menopause drives down estrogen levels, this protection disappears and leaves women as vulnerable to heart disease as men.