Don't ignore the simple stuff!
19 August 2014
When managing menopausal symptoms and later health effects of estrogen deficiency, focus is often made on prescribed medicines and Alternative therapies, with the various risks and benefits frequently being debated. While these are important, we should not forget that simple diet and lifestyle changes are also hugely important and perhaps should be considered first. Recently reported studies add weight to this argument, with information on effects of caffeine, exercise and soda.
Caffeine may worsen flushes. New study published in the journal "Menopause" suggests that caffeine intake may be associated with worse hot flushes in menopausal women. While it is not suggested that menopausal women should stop caffeine drinks completely, taking caffeine in moderation seems reasonable, particularly since it is also known to contribute to bladder problems and affect bone health when taken in excess.
Postmenopausal women who undertook regular physical activity equivalent to at least 4 hours of walking per week were shown to have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who exercised less, according to a study reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. The French study showed that the risk of invasive breast cancer was decreased by 10% in women who had taken exercise of walking or cycling at least 4 hours per week, or engaging in other sports 2 hours per week in the previous 4 years compared to less active women. The benefit decreased when activity stopped. In conclusion, postmenopausal women who exercise should continue to do so and those who do not should consider starting. Further, it is not necessary to engage in vigorous or very frequent activities; even walking 30 minutes per day is beneficial.
It is known that the frequency of soda consumption remains high in the United States. Soda consumption has been associated with poor bone health in children, but a new study has examined the relation of soda consumption with risk of hip fractures in postmenopausal women as part of the Nurses' Health Study. In 73,572 women, diet was assessed at baseline and updated approximately every 4 years, with follow up for around 30 years.
It was found that each additional serving of total soda per day was associated with a significant 14% increased risk of hip fracture. Risk was significantly elevated in consumers of both regular soda and diet soda and also did not significantly differ between colas and non-colas or sodas with or without caffeine. The association between soda and hip fractures did not differ by body mass index or diagnosis of diabetes.
In conclusion, increased soda consumption of all types may be associated with increased risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women; however, a clear mechanism was not apparent on the basis of these observational data.
Other diet and lifestyle factors which can help reduce menopausal symptoms and improve later health include maintaining healthy weight, not smoking and limiting alcohol -- simple advice yet hugely important at this stage in life.
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