Diet and metabolism for women over 40

Diet and metabolism for women over 40

Every woman goes through different phases in her life, each of which involves more or less important changes that require special precautions.

The modification of the hormonal structure has a strong influence: even if the different phases can be very variable and therefore there is no precise age with which to classify them, after the age of 40 it is easy to enter a transition period more or less long which will eventually lead to menopause, when the woman’s fertility ceases.

During this period, defined as perimenopause , the levels of progesterone begin to decrease and those of estrogen fluctuate: these two hormones are in fact responsible for the maturation of the egg cell and with the advancement of age gradually become less necessary.

The imbalance in the production of these two hormones, however, determines a series of consequences on the body of a woman of different types and which you should take into account if you are approaching this age.

Problems related to metabolism in women over 40

The most direct consequence of hormonal oscillation is the irregularity of the menstrual cycle: estrogen is a very important hormone in the woman’s metabolism and a lack of it produces several other effects, as explained by the guidelines of the Obstetricians Gynecologists Association Italian Hospitallers.

The drop in estrogen production can alter the sleep-wake mechanism : sleep disturbances such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, insomnia, problems that combined with the lack of sleep induced by hot flashes can appear heat and night sweats that may be present can cause chronic fatigue, increased irritability and mood swings.

More critical is the central role of estrogen in maintaining bone integrity: its deficiency can accelerate the loss of bone mass and density, facilitating the onset of osteoporosis and the risk of fractures.

Many women at this age have a greater tendency to weight gain and water retention : changes in body weight with modification of fat distribution and abdominal swelling are in fact the most common worries in the female population over 40.

Beyond the aesthetic implications that can also fall into psychological and mental implications of discomfort, if weight gain leads to overweight and obesity it can become an important health problem: these conditions are in fact associated with increased morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases and cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.

The risk of different types of cancer also increases, in particular due to the risk of breast cancer, for which an association between greater body weight and lower circulating estrogen concentrations has been demonstrated.

If you are a woman over 40, however, there are some behaviors that depend solely on you that can further negatively affect your quality of life:


In addition to being an important cardiovascular risk factor in the general population, smoking can lead to a lower level of estrogen and an advance on the onset of menopause, in addition to an increase in the level of androgens and central adipose tissue.

Smoking also plays an important role in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis: it is able to act directly on the bone, inhibiting osteoblastic activity and altering the microcirculation.

Alcohol and caffeine

A high alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for liver disease, hypertension and stroke.

The use of beverages containing alcohol and / or caffeine can be associated with the onset of insomnia and can facilitate the onset of hot flashes, especially if you take them before bedtime.

Insufficient physical activity and too much stress

Not performing adequate physical activity is a risk factor for many metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, promotes weight gain and accentuates the negative impact that stress has on your life. / p>

Ratio between weight and calories to consume

I have already mentioned the greater ease of increasing abdominal fat in women over 40.

We have seen how this trend is mainly due to the decrease in energy expenditure: a longitudinal observational study, conducted for 4 years with annual measurements on healthy women aged 43 or over, in fact showed a decrease of energy expenditure over time.

The sample of women examined was small, but it is worth reporting the results: the decrease in energy expenditure in 24 hours turned out to correspond to about 200 kcal, a quantity that could justify a significant weight gain.

The second conclusion concerns the increase in subcutaneous abdominal fat with the passage of time, with an increase in visceral fat (major risk factor for metabolic diseases) in women who then entered menopause.

These data support the importance of focusing on the early years of perimenopause , with the aim of increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy dietary and behavioral choices to prevent weight and fat gain visceral in the transition to menopause for women in their 40s.

Change your lifestyle

This makes us understand why the World Health Organization considers lifestyle, defined as a set of connected behaviors, as a necessary requirement for maintaining a good state of health.

Keeping weight under control , avoiding cigarette smoking to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, limiting alcohol consumption are behaviors that we can decide to adopt or not.

Last but not least perform regular physical exercise : improves general body and mental well-being, reduces the incidence of myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease, is also able to preserve strength and muscle elasticity and to improve balance by preventing falls and consequently osteoporotic fractures, if carried out with constant method and frequency.

We also find these indications among the recommendations reserved for 40-year-old women provided by the Office on Women’s Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, summarized in the following points:

  • do at least 30 minutes of physical activity;
  • get 7 to 9 hours of sleep;
  • achieve and maintain a healthy weight;
  • seek help to quit smoking or not start at all;
  • limit the use of alcohol.

Another important recommendation concerns nutrition: OWH in fact suggests adopting a healthy diet using the MyPlate plan to get started.

In the American indications the dish is divided into 4 sections that are not equal to each other, in which the different food groups of fruit, vegetables, cereals and protein sources are inserted, with the addition of a portion of dairy products.

While this is a laudable food education initiative in the homeland of obesity, I always prefer to refer to Harvard’s reworking of the main course, similar to the American one, but which contains much more details on the foods to be used.

What to eat after 40

In light of all the considerations made so far, you will agree that in order to lose weight, or in any case make sure that it does not increase excessively, a correct diet that provides ideal levels of nutrients is a fundamental adjuvant of the described lifestyle. as beneficial at this age.

What are the most important things to keep in mind?

More omega 3

The risk of heart disease increases as you go through menopause, but a diet rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids can reduce it: your goal should be to include at least two to three servings of fish a week, preferably rich in healthy fats such as blue fish or salmon.

Omega 3 can also intervene in the regulation of bone turnover, one more reason to devote more attention to this food category.

In case you are unable to meet your needs, supplementation may be useful.

More calcium and vitamin D

Your calcium requirement corresponds to a recommended intake of about 1000 milligrams per day, which you can easily reach with the consumption of milk and its derivatives, calcium water and green leafy vegetables (lettuce, rocket, turnip ..) and cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage ..). Vitamin D is not very present in food and must be absorbed through sun exposure.

If you consume dairy, choose medium or low fat products – they have about the same amount of calcium as their whole versions, but with fewer calories.

More spices and herbs, less salt

We consume too much salt in our daily diet, not to mention the hidden salt in packaged foods: if you suffer from water retention, this element is important to keep under control.

Reduce its use in the kitchen and use spices and herbs in its place to flavor your dishes.

More fiber from fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains

The fibers are able to modulate the absorption of lipids and exogenous cholesterol, thus proving to be healthy for the heart and for your general health.

Adding more fresh fruit, both cooked and raw vegetables, legumes and cereals in their wholemeal version will improve your carbohydrate tolerance, especially if you try to reduce your sugar intake at the same time.

Drink more water and less alcohol

I have already mentioned the drawbacks of alcohol consumption, such as an increased likelihood of sleep disturbances and increased perimenopausal symptoms. Often, even for the bad habit of drinking only at the table, little water is consumed. Are you drinking enough?

You can improve your health by adapting it to changes over time by learning the principles of “potentiating nutrition”: a scientific guide that transforms the dietary changes you need to get better and achieve your health goals into practical actions and personal.

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