Menopause and HRT v Exercise and Diet
I train quite a few women of a certain age (of which I’m the same bracket) and so this comes up quite a bit. Women, even those that have trained for years, find a difference in their bodies when they hit their 40's. Menopause is different for every woman, from no symptoms at all to horrible ones. Hot flushes, hormonal imbalances, weight fluctuations, mood swings, hair loss and gain (where you don’t want it) and increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease are just some that can occur.
At around 40 your hormones begin to change. We produce less estrogen and progesterone which causes the above occurrences and so many women turn to HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
HRT introduces synthetic estrogen and progesterone in order to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease while at the same time, hopefully reducing the unpleasant short-term side effects mentioned above. This isn’t without risk, studies have suggested that this therapy can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The synthetic estrogen, in some women, may also over-shadow the other hormones, creating an imbalance which can lead to many side effects. Some of these effects include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Breast tenderness
- Cystitis-like syndromes
- Gallbladder disease
- Mental depression
- Skin rashes
- Weight gain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vaginal candidiasis
Your body’s hormonal system is like a finely tuned watch and every time you introduce something foreign to it you may be creating a negative effect and will upset the body’s delicate balance. Some people get no side effects from therapy, some people get a lot, some people get all the above.
So, what has all this to do with exercise?
Natural alternatives to HRT includes a healthy diet and training program. Weight training has been proven to improve bone density and in conjunction with a good diet can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and create a better hormonal balance which reduces the risk of depression. Ok, it doesn’t eliminate hot flushes and headaches but being active and female makes these symptoms easier to deal with someone who isn’t.
I’m not saying don’t take HRT, every woman is unique in their symptoms but you should sit down with your doctor and weigh up the positives and negatives of taking anything. It’s all too easy to get a prescription for something that may make you worse, why not try the natural route of a good diet and regular exercise first.
Louise Kavanagh | Health and Fitness Club Manager | Spencer Health Club