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What is Menopause and Why Should I Care?

Image of lightbox with Menopause written on it. White flower placed on corner of box. Both placed on light wooden floor.

What is Menopause?

In simple terms Menopause is "when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally." NHS

Menopause itself is just 1 day. The day when a woman has been 12 months without a period with the average age for a woman in the UK to reach the menopause is 51.

  • Pre-Menopause = no menopausal symptoms
  • Peri-menopause = experience some symptoms, but still have a period
  • Menopause = 1 day, 12 months without a period
  • Post-menopause = the time after menopause

Why Should You Care?

Roughly 50% of the world is born female and all ovulating women will at some point go through menopause.

So, if you were born with ovaries you have either been through the menopause, going through it now or will go through it at some point in the future.

If you were not, you will more than likely know someone who is one of the above.

"Knowledge is power" as they say, so learning about the menopause and the effect is imperative for EVERYONE, no matter your age or gender.

Perimenopause

Despite the average age in the UK being 51, the menopause can actually occur at any time. Before the age of 40, it'll usually be classed as premature menopause.

Like Menopause itself, peri-menopause can start at any age and could last for several years.

Alongside the impact to your periods, there are actually a myriad of different symptoms that accompany menopause. All as a result of the now deficient sex hormone Oestrogen/Estrogen.

Some women may experience little to no symptoms, whereas others may experience an abundance. 

 Dr Louise Newson (GP & menopause specialist at menopausedoctor.co.uk) has some really helpful factsheets available on her site. Find out about the many symptoms to look out for here.

What is Oestrogen and Why is it Important?

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that occurs due to a woman's oestrogen levels declining.

Oestrogen (or Estrogen) is the female sex hormone produced by the ovaries.

It's a clever little hormone that can have huge benefits for women including protecting your: brain, skin, bones, heart, urinary functions and the genital area.

So during menopause, when the body stops producing it naturally, the body can go through a whole range of symptoms and can put you at risk of conditions such as osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis and Why Should You Care?

"Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break." NHS

Living with osteoporosis means you are at higher risk of breaking a bone. As bones lose strength, they can break after a minor bump or fall.

You may not even know you have osteoporosis until you break a bone!

Until this point, the best way to understand your risk of osteoporosis is through a bone density scan (DEXA).

If you have gone through early menopause naturally or due to surgery, you may be able to get a scan through the NHS. Consult your GP if you have any concerns.

This scan may show that you have low bone density (osteopenia) which is the stage before Osteoporosis.

Image of doctor holding chalkboard sign saying osteoporosis prevention

There are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing osteoporosis including:

  • Having a healthy diet, rich in calcium & Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D supplement during winter months
  • Give up smoking
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Regular exercise including strength training 

What's the Link Between Exercise & Bone Health?

"For exercise to be most effective at keeping bones strong you need to combine weight-bearing exercise with impact and muscle strengthening exercise." Royal Osteoporosis Society

When you exercise regularly, your bone adapts by building more bone and becoming denser. In particular, our muscles pull on the bones which prompt them to rebuild.

Although most muscle-strengthening or resistance exercise can improve your bone health, the NHS recommends the below forms of exercise for bone health in adults:

  • Walking
  • Lifting weights or using resistance bands
  • Some impact activities like running, jumping or skipping

Even if you already have osteoporosis or fragile bones, regular physical activity can help keep your bones healthy and reduce the risk of a fracture in the future. Always speak to your GP first or a specialist personal trainer in this area.

Image of woman in front of exercise class exercising with resistance bands

When Should You Act to Protect Your Bone Health?

Yesterday. But you are never too old or too young to take action to protect your bone health.

Consider it like a pension. You should be contributing to it regularly BEFORE you need it. You can continue to top it up as you are needing it however.

The good news is that you don't need to lift weights like a body builder to enjoy the benefits of resistance training for bone health.

The only caveat is that it should be progressive, meaning you need to continually challenge yourself. That can be in the number of reps, sets or frequency of the workout as well as the load volume/resistance.

The NHS recommends a minimum of 2 muscle strengthening sessions a week, where you target the whole body. This can either mean 2 whole body sessions per week or broken up into alternative upper & lower body sessions.

If you've never done strength training before, you can start off very easily with body-weight or using resistance bands.

Every purchase from us includes a free How To guide to get you started. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more handy tips & tricks.

 

Want to learn more?

For more information about the menopause visit the NHS website here

Click here to find out more from the Dr Louise Newson (menopause doctor)

Shop resistance bands here

Learn about the benefits of strength training for women here

Learn about the myths surrounding strength training for women here