Health Tips

Top tips that'll help you survive the menopause



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The menopause can bring a whole range of uncomfortable symptoms

Supermodel Yasmin Le Bon, 53, recently opened up about how she had been affected, revealing she suffered from fatigue and aches and pains as well as developing a “layer of padding all over”. And she’s not alone.

Once women hit their 40s, they typically gain an average of 1lb a year so a woman in her early 40s could easily be a stone heavier by the time she is 55.

The tendency to pile on the pounds is a natural part of ageing but the menopause is unfortunately a contributory factor.

The drop in oestrogen levels that occurs during menopause has a side effect of redistributing body fat and excess pounds start to settle around the waist.

There are also lifestyle factors to consider. Muscle mass diminishes with age while fat increases.

Other factors such as a lack of exercise, unhealthy eating and too little sleep can also contribute to weight gain.

Luckily there are plenty of simple lifestyle changes you can make to help tackle this problem.

We’ve put together a guide to help you look and feel your best during the menopause and beyond.

Don’t crash diet 

If you’re trying to lose weight, it can be tempting to skip meals or follow an extreme diet plan, banishing carbohydrates and other vital food groups.

However, if you drastically cut calories, your body reduces production of leptin.

This is the hormone that regulates fat distribution by controlling appetite and metabolic rate, which means the body begins to burn muscle rather than fat.

The truth is that extreme or crash diets slow the metabolism down and make weight gain more likely when you start eating normally again.

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Supermodel Yasmin Le Bon opened up about how she had been affected

Get moving 

Hormonal fluctuations during the menopause can slow your metabolism, meaning it’s easy to take in more calories than you burn.

If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase physical activity, you will gain weight. So it’s key to keep moving.

Aim to exercise at least three times a week for 45 minutes, mixing cardiovascular activity that gets your heart rate up with light weight-based exercises to increase muscle mass.

If you’re worried about fitting exercise into your schedule, incorporate it into your daily life by walking instead of driving and taking the stairs rather than waiting for the lift. 

The stress effect 

If you always feel stressed, the chances are your body is producing too much cortisol.

Unfortunately, high levels of this stress hormone can encourage the body to store fat around the midriff.

Cortisol also increases the appetite and leads to cravings for foods that are high in fat and sugar.

Tackle this head-on by dealing with your feelings of stress with a yoga or meditation class. 

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Women who get at least seven hours quality shut-eye each night are slimmer

Sleep better

A recent study revealed that women who get at least seven hours quality shut-eye each night are slimmer than those who get fewer than five hours.

On average, the women who regularly slept for seven hours weighed 5lb less than the lighter sleepers.

Not getting enough sleep disrupts a hormone in the body that regulates appetite so when you’re tired you’re likely to eat more and will be especially drawn to sugary foods. 

A healthy diet is key to success

If you are hungry, stay out of the biscuit tin and eat a few nuts instead. Packed with protein and essential fatty acids, they will keep you feeling fuller for longer, balance your hormones and banish sugar cravings. 

Eat more wholegrains. Research shows that menopausal women who eat brown bread and rice along with wholemeal pasta and cereals tend to have less body fat than those who get exactly the same number of calories from white carbohydrates. 

Don’t be afraid of fat. Healthy oils found in salmon and mackerel, olive oil, linseed oil and nuts (in particular, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds) are good for your heart and actually help your body to burn fat. Try drizzling olive or linseed oil on to your salads, stir-fries or pasta dishes. 

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Healthy diet is key to managing the menopause

Managing blood sugar levels to reduce insulin production is key to losing weight. Avoid refined sugars and processed foods such as white bread, white pasta, cakes and pastries and fill your fridge with unprocessed whole foods instead. 

Levels of friendly bacteria in the gut decrease after the age of 50, leaving you at increased risk of sluggish digestion and bloating. To remedy this take a daily probiotic supplement. 

Protein is not just for bodybuilders. If you want to lose weight, adding protein to your meals is key as it not only keeps you feeling full but also helps the body build lean muscle. The more lean muscle you have the more fat you will burn. 

Eating little and often will curb hunger pangs and keep blood sugar levels stable. Make sure you have healthy snacks to hand such as nuts and raisins, seeds and fresh fruit. Aim to eat three small to medium-sized meals a day plus two healthy snacks. 

For advice on cosmetic surgery, see your GP. For more of Lesley’s tips, go to lesleyreynolds.com

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