Five Ways Wise Women Stay Healthy
October 31, 2015
Women have unique health needs, especially as they get older. The effects of hormonal declines due to menopause, combined with stress and poor diet, can wreak havoc on physical and emotional well-being from a variety of different angles.
Adding fuel to the fire, women often put others’ needs ahead of their own. Knowingly or not, they tend to put their own health on the back burner.
If this sounds like you, take heart. It doesn’t take extraordinary amounts of time nor extreme effort to bring balance back into your life. Here are five ways you can get started. Even adopting one or two of these habits will set you on the right path toward vibrant health.
#1: Follow a Mediterranean-Style Diet
From the low-fat craze of the 80s to the low-carb rage of the 90s, there’s been no shortage of fad diets over the years. But none have gained long-term traction for one simple reason: They’re not sustainable in the long run. When you restrict major food groups, your body naturally starts craving the foods it’s being denied—and this sets you up for failure.
But there is one well-balanced eating plan that’s delicious, sustainable, not the least bit restrictive, works for everyone AND is clinically proven to prevent disease—the Mediterranean diet.
Numerous studies reveal the Mediterranean diet can reduce cardiovascular risk factors, lower the risk of cancer and aid in the prevention and management of diabetes. Research also shows that following this diet can help you lose weight, especially belly fat.1-4
Dietary staples include a wide array of scrumptious, nutritious food—fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, olives and olive oil and flavorful spices and herbs. Poultry and eggs are eaten in moderation, while red meat and sweets are generally reserved for special occasions only (or avoided altogether).
Another staple of the Mediterranean diet that garners rave reviews is red wine. While certainly not mandatory, red wine contains heart-friendly polyphenols, so wine connoisseurs can enjoy a glass a day if they wish.
If this sounds too tedious to jump into 100 percent, start by eliminating processed food and sugar. Once you do, you’re halfway there! Then cut down on red meats and add more olive oil and fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel and trout) to your diet. Making gradual changes such as these will allow you to fully appreciate just how easy (and tasty) this lifestyle can be.
#2: Let Go with Yoga
Between managing careers and households, nurturing relationships and dealing with daily stressors like traffic, illness, financial strains and even trying to figure out what to make for dinner, it’s no wonder women are stressed to the max.
While you can’t eliminate all the stress from your life, it’s important to learn how to control your body’s response to it. And one of the best ways to do this is through a daily yoga practice.
Just 15 minutes a day of yoga is fantastic for balancing your body, mind and spirit. It promotes a state of relaxation that is ideal for dealing with stress.
A recent review of 25 clinical trials concluded, “Yoga practice leads to better regulation of the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system, as well as a decrease in depressive and anxious symptoms.”5 In other words, better stress management and less depression and anxiety. Talk about win-win!
Yoga can also improve blood pressure and heart function, enhance mobility in people with arthritis and even aid in weight loss.6-8
#3: Manage Menopause
Many women think that once the hot flashes subside, entering menopause is smooth sailing. While you certainly can and should live an amazing life post-menopause, the risk of certain health concerns tend to increase during this phase. The good news is that you can easily address these areas with natural solutions.
When it comes to female hormones, most people automatically think estrogen. But progesterone is another important player that has many protective properties. By the time menopause hits, it’s not uncommon for levels of this hormone to be close to zero!
Progesterone plays many roles throughout the entire body—not just in the female reproductive tract. It has been shown to stimulate the formation of new bone, helping to ward off osteoporosis.9 It also helps improve memory, lessen anxiety, relieve migraines, enhance sleep and prevent breast cancer.10
If you have a deficiency, supplementing with progesterone can be life changing. The key, however, is to use natural progesterone rather than synthetic progestins prescribed by doctors. Synthetic hormones carry risks, while the natural or bioidentical alternatives have a much more favorable safety profile.
You can find natural progesterone creams at most health food stores and supplement retailers. Another option is oral progesterone drops. Whatever you choose, work with your doctor to find an appropriate dosage.
For years, synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was prescribed to decrease the risk of breast cancer and other diseases that tend to become more prevalent in the postmenopausal years. But that changed when research determined that synthetic hormones actually raise the risk of breast cancer.11
Fortunately, upping your veggie intake—specifically broccoli and other Brassicavegetables—can safeguard against this disease. Brassica vegetables contain high amounts of glucosinolates, a class of sulphur-containing compounds that break down into cancer-fighting compounds called isothiocyanates.
One particular compound derived from glucosinolate—indole-3-carbinol (I3C)—is especially important. I3C molecules combine with each other in the stomach to form several different end products, one of which is 3,3-diindolylmethane (DIM). Research shows that DIM can actually inhibit the growth of cancer cells.12-13
If you’re not a broccoli lover, you can take DIM in supplement form. Look for DIM online or at your local health food store or supplement retailer.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a wonderful herb that for centuries has helped women ease into menopause much more easily, with far fewer symptoms.
This butterscotch-flavored root is cultivated in the Andes Mountains. It acts as a nervous system stimulant, which, in turn, boosts hormone production. Rather than mimicking your body’s hormones (which is how HRT works), maca helps your body produce its own unique balance of hormones.
Research suggests that, in postmenopausal women, maca can naturally treat symptoms such as hot flashes, reduce blood pressure and depression and even enhance sexual function.14-16
#4: Do Take Your D
Vitamin D, while usually thought of as calcium’s bone-building companion, actually has many other significant roles in the body.
Research indicates that, along with osteoporosis, this important nutrient can help prevent various types of cancer, heart disease, type 1 diabetes and diabetic complications such as retinopathy.17-18
Another study published in 2011 went so far as to conclude, “Increasing [vitamin D] levels is the most cost-effective way to reduce global mortality rates, as the cost of vitamin D is very low and there are few adverse effects from oral intake and/or frequent moderate UVB irradiance with sufficient body surface area exposed.”19
The simplest and cheapest way to get vitamin D is to go outside and get some sun. Up to 90 percent of our vitamin D production happens when ultraviolet B rays from the sun penetrate the skin. This initiates the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to D3.
Expose sunscreen-free skin to sunlight for half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink. For most, 20-30 minutes is more than enough. (If you’re in the sun longer than that, be sure to apply sunblock.)
If you can’t get outside every day, take a supplement that contains D3 in the form of cholecalciferol—the form best absorbed and utilized by the body. Take 2,000 IU per day, or more if directed by your doctor.
#5: Reach for Resveratrol
Resveratrol is a polyphenol that is most abundant in the skin of red grapes. A great deal of research confirms resveratrol’s potential in preventing, reversing or treating some major diseases.
Just a few of resveratrol’s benefits include:
- Protection against heart conditions, including coronary artery disease, myocardial ischemia and atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries). It also supports the production of nitric oxide, which keeps blood vessels dilated.20-22
- Cancer cell-killing activity.23
- More stable blood insulin levels and prevention/treatment of diabetes and obesity.24
- Enriched cognition and protection against age-related cognitive decline.25
- Greater energy in those suffering from chronic fatigue.26
Red wine is well known to be rich in resveratrol. However, you would need to drink several glasses a day to achieve therapeutic benefit. While a glass a day is probably fine, more than that may not be the wisest choice.
To provide your body with robust, disease-preventing levels of resveratrol, opt for a supplement. (These are readily available pretty much everywhere.) Aim for up to 300 mg per day.
Wise Up and Protect Your Health
Whether you’re just getting started on your journey toward improved health or you’re well on your way, taking care of yourself allows you to be a be a more active and present partner, mother, friend, caregiver and more. So take these steps to better yourself now, and you (and those you love!) will benefit for decades to come.
Obtained from Whole Health Insider Publication
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- Patil SG, et al. Complement Ther Med. 2015 Aug;23(4):562-9.
- Moonaz SH, et al. J Rheumatol. 2015 Jul;42(7):1194-202.
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- Lee MS, et al. Maturitas. 2011 Nov;70(3):227-33.
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- Shin BC, et al. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44.
- Raheem R, et al. Alex J Med. 2013 June;49(2):119-23.
- Holick MF. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Mar;79(3):362-71.
- Grant WB. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;65(9):1016-26.
- Penumathsa SV, et al. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Apr;87(4):275-86.
- Lin JF, et al. Life Sci. 2008 Aug 29;83(9-10):313-7.
- Kostyuk VA, et al. Eur J Pharmacol. 2001 May 11;658(2-3):248-56.
- Liu P, et al. Clin Transl Oncol. 2013 Sep;15(9):741-6.
- Szkudelska K and Szkudelski T. Eur J Pharmacol. 2010 Jun 10;635(1-3):1-8.
- Harada N, et al. J Nutr Biochem. 2011 Dec;22(12):1150-9.
- Chen R, et al. Neurochem Res. 2008 Sep;33(9):1759-67.
Dietary Supplements, Women's Health, Diet and Disease