Female and Over 40?
Today, turning 40 is less about being “over a hill” and more synonymous with “running up a hill,” as women in this age bracket tend to be at the peak of busyness. Surveys and census data show more women over the age of 40 are starting families, getting married and are at the pinnacle of their careers. But running at such a fast pace can lead to critical mistakes with your health that can potentially make you feel and look older than your real age. Here are my top two health mistakes women over age 40 make and what you can do to reverse the damage.
Mistake No. 1: Neglecting Heart Health
It is a common misperception that heart disease is primarily a man’s disease. But in fact, this leading killer of men is also the leading killer in women. In fact, 10 times more women die of heart disease every year than from breast cancer. There are simple diet and lifestyle habits that are very effective at preventing or even reversing this disease if you already have it. For example, never smoke; favor a plant-based diet and nix the junk foods and carbs; exercise daily—even a 30-minute brisk walk can significantly lower your risk; go to bed before 10 P.M. (staying up to midnight regularly can double your risk); and reduce the damaging effects of stress by practicing an effective stress-reducing technique daily, such as meditation or yoga. Certain supplements including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3 can also help protect against several cardiovascular risk factors. You can find out exactly what your omega-3 and vitamin D levels are by taking a home-test that can be purchased at www.nutrientpower.org. I'm on the scientific advisory board for nonprofit, Organic & Natural Health Association and they are leading an international research initiative for omega-3 and vitamin D right now that will result in even more scientific data on the power of these important nutrients for a wide variety of health conditions, including heart health. By purchasing this kit and having your levels tested you will be part of this initiative.
Mistake No. 2: Mismanagement of Menopause.
Early menopause is currently defined at age 44, but new research is showing menopause is hitting women even earlier. A recent study in the journal Human Reproduction found that girls, who start their periods at age 11 or younger, are more likely to go through menopause in their 30s. Being aware of the symptoms (including mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, memory problems, irritability and fatigue) and knowing your options to manage menopause miseries will give you a leg up on addressing these issues before they become problematic.
I don't recommend running to your doctor for hormone replacement therapy because of its potentially dangerous side effects. For decades, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) was promoted as the fountain of youth. It was said to lower the risk of heart disease, strokes, and Alzheimer's disease. But several studies in the early 2000s, including the Women's Health Initiative Study—the largest ongoing prospective study of women—found mostly the opposite is true. Women who take HRT have an increased risk of heart disease, strokes, blood clots, gall bladder disease and invasive breast and ovarian cancer. You might think that bio-identical hormones are a much better alternative, however, there are no long-term studies proving their safety. Early studies show they appear to be less harmful when compared to synthetic pharmaceutical hormones, but they still may increase your risk of breast cancer.
A much safer choice when it comes to improving menopausal symptoms is to restore balance to your physiology through healthy diet and lifestyle choices. For additional help, I recommend taking an effective, safe, plant-based supplement. A relatively new formula that thousands of gynecologists are recommending here in the United States is called Relizen (www.relizen.com).
Discovered by accident, a Swedish beekeeper noticed that his bees seemed more energetic when they consumed the pollen from particular flowers growing in his fields. He then wondered if it would have the same effect on people. So, he gave it to men and women and although he was unimpressed by the pollen's ability to improve energy; he was quite impressed and surprised to find it appeared to provide great relief for menopausal women. The first pollen extract product was released in Europe in 1999. Made from the extracts of several Swedish flowers— specifically from the grass (Poacea) family including rye (Secale cerale )—this product was recently introduced in America a few years ago by the name, Relizen. To date, over one million women worldwide have used this supplement with great satisfaction; and it is currently the number one non-hormonal menopausal product used in France.
Gynecologists recommended Relizen to their patients because it has been studied with the same rigors used for a pharmaceutical medication proving its effectiveness. This is one of the reasons why I have recently been working with Relizen to educate more women about the advantages of this supplement. For example, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2005, and a large controlled clinical trial in 2015 that was conducted by 90 gynecologists found that Relizen works through non-estrogenic pathways to help alleviate menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mood swings and fatigue.
Exactly how the pollen extract works is not fully understood, but it has been found to contain over 180 nutrients and is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. In addition, according to a publication in 2016, it also increases serotonin—a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood and improves depression. Because it is non-hormonal it is considered safe for women who have had breast cancer. Just to note—the manufacturer says they use a state-of-the art manufacturing process to remove the allergenic husk, reducing the worry if you have a pollen allergy.
- Winther K, Rein E, Hedman C. Femal, "An herbal remedy made from pollen extracts, reduces hot flashes and improves quality of life in menopausal women: a randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel study." Climacteric. 2005; 8: 162–70.
- Simon, J., Druckman, R., "Nonhormonal Treatment of Perimenopausal and Menopausal Climacteric Symptoms" presented at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Annual Scientific and Clinical Meeting 2016.
- Goldstein SR, Espie M, Druckmann R. "Does purified Swedish pollen extract, a non-hormonal treatment for vasomotor symptoms, inhibit the CYP2D6 enzyme system?" Menopause. 2015;22(11):1212–14.
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Christine Horner, MD
Christine Horner, MD is a board-certified and nationally recognized surgeon, author, expert in natural medicine, and a relentless champion for women’s health. She spearheaded legislation in the 1990s that made it mandatory that insurance companies pay for breast reconstruction following mastectomy. She is the author of Waking the Warrior Goddess: Dr. Christine Horner’s Program to Protect Against and Fight Breast Cancer, winner of the Independent Book Publishers Award 2006 for “Best Book in Health, Medicine, and Nutrition.”