Blooming through menopause

Nicola - Sunday, September 21, 2014

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Menopause is not generally talked about yet it impacts upon the lives of the majority of the population either directly for women or indirectly by being part of their family. Menopause results from a lowering of oestrogen due to the ovaries turning off at the end of the reproductive years. But oestrogen is involved in more than reproduction – it is a major brain player! In fact both men and women have oestrogen in their brains as it plays a significant role in the brain-and-body including cardiovascular health, bone health, and off course in brain function.

As a result, when the body-and-brain start to run on lowered oestrogen it causes a number symptoms and discomforts. Importantly, menopause can be a risk  period for some women to develop stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Oestrogen is linked to mood regulating chemicals and neurotransmitters like serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin, so some women may feel isolated, disconnected, stressed, and anxious.  Oestrogen also appears to be also be related to oxygen metabolism, with many women reporting headaches, and cognitive difficulties such as poor concentration and forgetfulness.

What can you do to manage menopause? Lifestyle factors, including attitude and mindfulness, are known to help reduce negative symptoms. Medical interventions are also available so seek medical assistance if required.  However, five simple life-style steps to start with are:

  • Diet- have less caffeine, garlic, chilli, fatty foods and alcohol, and the heat intensity of those power surges will reduce
  • Stress  – actively manage stress to lower the stress hormone cortisol which goes up during menopause
  • Sleep – whilst broken sleep is a common symptom, a good sleep routine and relaxation will help keep your energy charged
  • Exercise – physical fitness helps your body reduce and manage the body-side effects of less oestrogen, and lowers stress and assists with sleep
  • Attitude – embrace the change, a positive attitude makes a big difference so accept it is a natural stage – just like puberty- and make new goals for yourself and set about achieving them

Keep your marbles in retirement

Nicola - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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Leaving the workforce means very different things to different people. For some it is a time of reward. For others it becomes a difficult passage. Importantly retirement from work needn’t be about retiring from life. The WHO now describes getting older as a time for active ageing. Preparing for your retirement is therefore essential so that you can enjoy that next period of your life, feel fulfilled, and maintain physical and mental wellbeing. In fact feeling positive about getting chronologically older can lengthen your life.

More importantly good planning and preparation will help ensure that you not only age healthily and maintain cognitive fitness but are capable of having a richly fulfilling time whilst simultaneously reducing your risk of disease. But do not rush into retirement unless you plan to be very mentally active. Early retirement is a significant risk factor for dementia (for more information see Older age at retirement is associated with decreased risk of dementia C Dufouil – ‎2014).

Research consistently indicates that a sense of fulfillment and meaning throughout retirement helps maintain cognitive, mental and physical health, and is gained through having an engaged and active life. How prepared are you for a post-work mentally stimulating life? Answer these simple questions to get yourself started on active ageing

1. What options for productive activities do you have? (semi-retirement, part-time work, casual work, volunteering, mentoring, being on a board, community service)
2. What are your life style expectations for post-work, and those of your partner?
3. What interests/ study / hobbies / activities have you established already outside of work that you want to continue?
4. What new activities, opportunities have you created to develop new social network?
5. How do you imagine spending your typical day?
6. What will give you meaning and purpose in retirement?

Be proactive. Maintain your health by arranging regular e checkups and think prevention by keeping physically active and having a good diet and adequate sleep. Stay connected with people, remain curious and embrace post-work life as a time of opportunity.