4 Common Health Issues and Diet's Role

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As women get older and approach menopause, they become more at risk for a variety of health issues. The proposed 2015 National Dietary Recommendations recently were released and were created by the nation’s top nutritional experts, using the latest research evidence. Several of the areas involve health issues related to menopause and/or aging. Here are 4 common health issues that getting older brings and the role that diet plays into managing them.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular risk increases as women go through menopause. The American Heart Association notes that while menopause doesn’t cause cardiovascular disease, specific risk factors for this condition – such as higher blood pressure, higher bad cholesterol levels and decreased estrogen levels -- emerge around this time of life due to changes in the body.

Diet’s Role

The recommendations note that the right diet can lower cardiovascular disease risk. This plan is rich in produce, whole grains, low-fat dairy and seafood. Regular consumption of nuts, legumes and moderate consumption of alcohol also offers protection. However, avoid red/processed meats, refined grains and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages since they increase the risk to heart health.

Increased Body Weight

As we reach middle age, our metabolism tends to slow, which makes it easier to gain weight. In fact, a 2012 study found that altered hormone levels during this time of life change the distribution of body fat, which begins to accumulate in the abdomen. This accumulation raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Diet’s Role

Weight loss can be achieved through a healthy diet that is part of a comprehensive lifestyle approach.  Your diet should focus on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood and legumes with a moderate amount of dairy products and alcohol. You should lower consumption of meats (including red and processed meats), sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.

Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers aren’t sure if menopause increases the risk of diabetes, but studies suggest that hormones may play a role, along with the effects of age and weight gain. It’s important to take steps to control diabetes at this stage of life since it can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and nerve damage.

Diet’s Role

Moderate evidence supports that a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The recommended diet also encourages consuming lower amounts of red/processed meats, high-fat dairy products, refined grains, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Breast Cancer

Your risk of developing breast cancer is influenced by the age you are when you go through menopause. Researchers have found that women who go through this transition later in life have a higher risk of breast cancer.  In fact, the analysis found that each additional year of age increases breast cancer risk by about 3 percent.

Diet’s Role

Moderate evidence exists that postmenopausal breast cancer risk can be lowered through eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains. This evidence also calls for limiting consumption of animal products and refined carbohydrates.