As you go through menopause, you might already know to expect symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings. These are a normal result of the hormonal changes in your body.
What you might not know is that hormonal fluctuations do more than cause uncomfortable symptoms. They can also affect other aspects of your health. During and after menopause, women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease due to their changing body chemistry.
To keep your heart and bones health, make sure you are incorporating these four vitamins into your diet.
Vitamin C helps boost your immune system, heal wounds, and repair damaged or ageing tissue. The American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, recommends that women over 50 years old (the average onset of menopause happens at age 51) consume about 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day.
Research also found that vitamin C is critical for limiting oxidative stress, the damage done to your cells as they are exposed to free radicals in the environment. Before menopause, estrogen works as a natural antioxidant, limiting the harm done by free radicals. As your estrogen levels decline during menopause, however, your natural defenses against oxidative stress weaken, which the study found can lead to conditions such as liver cirrhosis and heart disease. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, protects your body against free radical damage.
Other studies have found that vitamin C plays a role in supporting bone health, linking it to higher bone mineral density and a reduced risk of osteoporosis in menopausal and postmenopausal women. Dietary sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, bell peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries. Your doctor may also recommend vitamin C supplements.
Vitamin E plays a critical role in preventing oxidative stress as women go through menopause. Like vitamin C, vitamin E counteracts the damage done to the body by free radicals, filling the role that higher levels of estrogen played before menopause. It also helps reduce instances of cardiovascular disease by reducing levels of unhealthy cholesterol in the body.
Vitamin E is found in vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, and fruits, and these dietary sources are generally safe for anyone. However, be sure to talk to your doctor before you take any vitamin E supplements. The average woman in her 50s needs about 15 milligrams of vitamin E per day; some studies have found that higher levels may increase the risk of bleeding and interfere with your body’s clotting ability. This is especially dangerous for women who take prescription blood thinners.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and studies have found that this is especially important for menopausal women. The hormonal changes that occur during menopause decrease bone density, increasing your risk of fractures and other skeletal damage. Vitamin D helps counteract this, promoting bone health and reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
The body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and vitamin D deficiency is common for people who spend most of their time indoors. If you are at risk for osteoporosis or heart disease, your doctor may recommend vitamin D supplements. There are also some dietary sources of vitamin D, including fatty fish, liver, egg yolks, and fortified milks.
Vitamin K is another important component of bone health for menopausal women. Research published in 2013 found that women who took vitamin K supplements over three years showed lower levels of bone loss post-menopause than women who did not take supplements. In addition to increasing bone density and reducing your risk of osteoporosis, studies have shown that vitamin K is important for heart health and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The AARP recommends that women over 50 consume about 90 micrograms of vitamin K per day. Dietary sources include plant oils, green vegetables, cauliflower, and cabbage, but some studies also recommend supplementation to promote ideal bone health. Talk to your doctor to determine whether you get adequate levels of vitamin K in your diet.
September 27, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN