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Menopause and HRT

Holistic-online.com

Alternative Medicine for Menopause

Exercise

The Benefits Of Regular Exercise

Study Verifies Effectiveness of Exercise
Regular Exercise Can Help You Cope With Effects of Menopause
Lack of Exercise Makes You Susceptible to Osteoporosis
Exercise As A Mental Tonic

Excessive Exercise

When To Stop Exercising

Pelvic Exercises for Bladder Control: Kegel Exercises

Kegel Exercises
Procedure
Advantages of the Kegel Exercises

Exercises for Osteoporosis

Without doubt, exercise is the most important alternative therapy available to the menopausal woman. Exercise allows you to control your body and emotions by using your internal resources. Each time you exercise, your adrenal glands are stimulated to convert the male hormone androstenedione into estrogen. A minimum of four 30-minute exercise sessions a week will be enough to keep you "topped off' with estrogen. As you grow older, your cardio-respiratory fitness, your strength, and your flexibility begin to decline, but for people who remain active, they decrease at a lower rate (an average of five percent per decade after the age of 20, as opposed to nine percent per decade).

The Benefits Of Regular Exercise
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Your cells receive more oxygen, which improves blood circulation, creates energy, and improves your ability to handle stress.

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Exercise can help you deal with depression and improve your sense of well - being.

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Improved health will add year's to your life.

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Constipation may decrease or disappear.

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You sleep better.

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You have an easier time controlling your weight, because regular exercise helps to bum calories, diminish your appetite, and speed your body’s metabolism.

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Your bones become stronger, helping prevent osteoporosis.

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Your risk of heart disease declines.

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Lung function and endurance improve.

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Your chances of getting colon cancer decrease.

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Your risk of developing adult-onset diabetes decreases, as exercise improves your body’s ability to use sugar in the blood.

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Joint stiffness, arthritis, and low-back pain lessen.

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Maintenance of muscle strength.

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Higher levels of the healthy type of cholesterol in the blood.

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A more efficient immune system.

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Reduced body fat.

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Better appetite control.

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Increased mental agility.

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Fewer headaches.

Study Verifies Effectiveness of Exercise

Researchers in Sweden designed a study to determine the effect of regular physical exercise on the frequency of hot flashes. In the study, the frequency of moderate and severe hot flashes was investigated in seventy-nine postmenopausal women who took part in physical exercise on a regular basis and was compared to that in a control group of 866 postmenopausal women between fifty-two and fifty-four years old.

The study clearly demonstrated that regular physical exercise decreased the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The women in the exercising group passed through a natural menopause without the use of hormone replacement therapy. The physically active women who had no hot flashes whatsoever spent an average of 3.5 hours per week exercising, while women who exercised less than this amount were more likely to have hot flashes. Similar results, including mood elevation in pre-, peri-, and postmenopausal exercising versus sedentary women, have been reported in other studies. The benefits of exercise were experienced in women both on and off HRT.

Regular Exercise Can Help You Cope With Effects of Menopause

Regular exercise benefits the heart and bones, helps regulate weight, and contributes to a sense of overall well-being and improvement in mood. Sedentary people are far more prone to coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Sedentary women may also suffer more from chronic back pain, stiffness, insomnia, and irregularity. They often have poor circulation, weak muscles, shortness of breath, and loss of bone mass. Depression can also be a problem. Women who regularly walk, jog, swim, bike, dance, or perform some other aerobic activity can more easily circumvent these problems and also achieve higher HDL cholesterol levels. Studies show that women performing aerobic activity or muscle-strength training reduced mortality from cardio vascular disease and cancer.

Lack of Exercise Makes You Susceptible to Osteoporosis

Lack of exercise affects bone health too. Bones diminish in size and strength with disuse. Weight-bearing exercise (walking, running) will help increase bone mass. Exercise stimulates the cells responsible for generating new bone to work overtime. Research studies have shown that bone tissue lost from lack of use can be rebuilt with weight-bearing activity. Studies of athletes show they have greater bone mass compared to non-athletes at the sites related to their sport. In postmenopausal women, moderate exercise preserves bone mass in the spine helping reduce the risk of fractures.

Exercise As A Mental Tonic

Regular exercise may also have a significant effect on our mental agility by increasing the amount of oxygen supplied to the brain. In a comparison of sedentary older women and older women who got regular exercise, after four months the exercising group processed information faster in tests. This effect of exercise is particularly marked in older people.

Apart from increasing the oxygen supply to the brain, exercise may also slow down the loss of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to prevent the shaking and stiffness that can come with old age. A severe shortage of dopamine results in the exaggerated tremors of Parkinson's disease. Dopamine decreases in the brain by about one percent a year from our mid-20s, and if we lived to be a 100 years old, we would all appear to have Parkinson's disease. Since exercise can slow down dopamine loss, it is particularly beneficial as we grow older. Exercise can also prevent our reaction times from slowing down.

Experts think exercise helps because it raises blood levels of endorphins. They are involved in the body's positive response to stress. The mood-heightening effect can last for several hours, according to some endocrinologists.

These 'feel-good' biochemicals drop off when estrogen is low. Endorphins also play a role in the body's ability to regulate temperature. Regular physical exercise may increase endorphin activity and so diminish the frequency of hot flashes. In one Swedish study, severe hot flashes and night sweats were only half as common among women past the age of menopause who were physically active.

You may prefer a game such as tennis, badminton, or squash, all of which offer the added attraction of meeting and socializing with people. Likewise, joining any exercise class can provide a social aspect that may encourage you to exercise regularly. Less rigorous and more traditional forms of exercise, such as walking and swimming, offer viable alternatives and will keep the body fit and supple.

Recently, there has been a move away from aerobic training toward strength training and weight bearing exercise. Research suggests that any exercise involving weights can delay loss of bone and muscle tissue, which is a natural consequence of aging. Weight-bearing exercise also helps to normalize the flow of sugar from the blood into muscle tissue, where it can be properly metabolized. This may lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Before starting your program of exercises, consult a physician. An exercise program should start slowly and build up to more strenuous activities. Women who already have osteoporosis of the spine should be careful about exercise that jolts or puts weight on the back, as it could cause a fracture.

Excessive Exercise

Although most of us don't get enough exercise, a small percentage of women become psychologically addicted to exercise. They feel the need to train every day and feel guilty if they miss a single session. Excessive exercise is as bad as no exercise at all. It can affect every facet of your life. When you train too much, you can experience mood swings and problems with sleep and appetite. You're also more susceptible to colds and injuries, as intense physical exercise can lower the integrity of the immune system.

If you think you are a compulsive exerciser or that you are training excessively, it may help to know in physiological terms how fit you are. Compare your physical fitness level with the published data on the desirable level and your target level. If you feel your need to exercise is compulsive, or that it is accompanied by anxiety and depression, you should seek medical help. An exercise addiction is as serious as any other compulsive form of behavior.

When To Stop Exercising

Warning: Never ignore the symptoms of possible over exercise, which could mean that you are having a heart attack or some other medical emergency. Stop exercising immediately if you have any of these symptoms:
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Nausea

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Blurred vision

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Severe shortness of breath

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Faintness or fainting

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Pain or pressure in your chest

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Pain in your neck, jaw, or down your left arm

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Palpitations (a disturbing feeling that your heart is beating irregularly, more strongly, or more rapidly than normal)

If you injure yourself, stop exercising immediately. Trying to "work through" the pain could cause more damage to injured tissues. If you have a strain, sprain, or muscle pull, rest the injury for a few days and follow the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) routine. If you think the injury might be serious, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you think you have broken a bone, go to your hospital's emergency department

Pelvic Exercises for Bladder Control: Kegel Exercises

If you have incontinence caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles, strengthening those muscles through exercise can improve bladder control. For women with stress incontinence, tensing the muscles located around the vaginal opening and anus a set number of times each day (ten times in a row at least six times a day) can bring positive results within eight weeks. This exercise works even for older women.

Exercises for incontinence are often referred to as the Kegel exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, the surgeon who developed this therapy.

Kegel Exercises

These exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. Also improve sexual functioning and decrease urinary incontinence.

They involve tensing and relaxing the pubococcygeal muscles around the area of the urethra, vagina and anus.

You can identify pubococcygeal muscles in one of the following ways:
bulletBegin to urinate and then stop. The same muscle you use to control urination is the muscle that you will contract then relax during the Kegel exercises.
bulletInserting a tampon and squeeze around it. These muscles are the ones used in the exercise.

Procedure

Hold pubococcygeal muscle for at least five to ten seconds and then release it slowly. After mastering the slow Kegel exercise, you should also do a series of rapid ones. They should be repeated ten to fifteen times, and the whole session should be repeated three to five times per day.

Kegel exercises can be done at any time of the day since they are invisible to the observer. Women can integrate Kegel exercise into any part of their daily routine-like when you are on the elevator, or driving or talking on the phone, or while taking a shower. Repetition is very important and many women have found that these exercises have had a positive impact on their sex fife.

Advantages of the Kegel Exercises
bulletBy developing the muscles around the vaginal area, the woman can have more control and pleasure during the sexual encounter.
bulletKegel exercises can tone up muscles and stop incontinence.
bulletKegel exercises can build up the muscles in order to counteract any muscle loosening that occurs as a result of menopause.

Doing your Kegels faithfully can restore your pelvic floor muscles enough that a sneeze or heavy lifting won't cause urination. A key point in this training-which can also improve some cases of urge incontinence-is that it can work for the properly selected patient so long as exercises are done regularly and consistently. You should consult a health-care professional for a detailed exercise program.

Kegel exercises in combination with low-dose estrogens (from natural sources or through HRT) is an effective therapy for incontinence. Estrogens replenish the cellular surface of the urinary opening, the base of the bladder, and the lining of the urinary passage. The exercise build up muscles. The combination is effective in the closure of the bladder so that urine will not leak out.

Exercises for Osteoporosis

Regular exercise keeps bone primed and helps prevent bone deterioration. How it accomplishes this feat is still being examined. Exercise may be directly affecting bone by stimulating metabolic hormones that influence such growth. There's considerable evidence that exercise also indirectly affects bone by applying force on the muscles connected to bone. The more a muscle is moved, the more electromagnetic resistance develops between muscle and bone, and the more bone stays primed in response to that stress. When bone isn't stressed by muscle, it can break down rapidly.

The familiar advice for postmenopausal women is: "Use it or lose it." Any physical activity is better than none at all.

When bone density increases, to whatever degree, the greatest buildup occurs in those locations most influenced by exercise. Another observation was that when exercise contributes to bone buildup, the body appears to reach a plateau after which further exercise does not increase bone density.

Even low-key physical activity such as walking or gardening will benefit your musculoskeletal system, while also enhancing blood flow that can stimulate the uptake of bone-building nutrients. Aim to exercise for at least twenty minutes, three days a week; you're under no pressure to run a seven- minute mile.

Unfortunately, few studies to date tell us exactly what type of exercise best benefits bone. Some therapists recommend weight-bearing and resistance-oriented exercises. With weight-bearing exercises, your body weight serves as the load to strengthen muscles and bone, in comparison to resistance training, which makes use of an external load. Weight-bearing exercises include walking and running (hence treadmills and stair climbers), jumping rope, and doing horizontal push-ups. Pedaling a stationary bike is considered a light weight-bearing exercise. Examples of resistance training are weight-bearing aerobics (as opposed to regular aerobics), the lifting of weights, and the pulling and pushing that Nautilus and other equipment provide. The theory is, the more resistance your body encounters, the greater therapeutic benefit for the muscle- bone framework. Some professionals don't recommend resistance training, especially for middle-aged and older individuals, since it can exacerbate back, joint, and muscle problems.

Exercises that put less weight on bones, such as swimming, badminton, or bicycling on flat turf, may not be as effective. "Swimming amounts to non impact exercise and it's been clearly shown not to improve bone density.

A study done by researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston has signaled that weight lifting can bear impressive bone-related results for certain post- menopausal women. Twice weekly, the formerly sedentary participants used pneumatic resistance machines for forty- five-minute workouts. After a year of training, their hip and back muscles had strengthened by 36 to 76 percent. Their leg and spine bone density increased by 1 percent; their balance improved by 14 percent. In another group of comparably aged women (ages 50 to 70) who remained sedentary, bone density declined as did balance abilities.

For older women, exercise reduces fractures not only by fortifying bone but also by noticeably improving balance, gait, coordination, and response time so that people are less apt to fall and fracture a hip or wrist. If they do fall, they're better able to break their fall, perhaps spraining a wrist but averting a broken hip, an injury that causes complications resulting in death in 15 percent of cases among the elderly. Overall, the strengthening of muscles can simply help the elderly to be more self-sufficient-to do such basic things as get out of a chair or walk to the mailbox.

Exercise among the elderly is highly beneficial and safe, provided an individual has no extreme medical problems. Studies have shown that after a few months of high-intensity workouts, frail individuals can regain significant muscle power in their arms, legs, and abdomen, and improve their mobility. In one such study elderly women and men who participated in this study doubled their lower-body muscle strength after a ten-week exercise program. The average age of the participants was 87.

It was concluded that routine exercise can be even better for bone than estrogen replacement. Whereas estrogens serve only to safeguard bone density, exercise can maintain bone density as well as improve muscle mass, muscle strength, and balance.

Experts often recommend a three-part exercise regimen for postmenopausal women of any age, particularly those whose bones show signs of osteoporosis. The regimen includes:
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A walking program that progressively builds walking time up to twenty to thirty minutes a day;

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Weight-strength exercises that tone the legs and arms; and

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Posture training that strengthens the back and teaches a person the best positions for sitting, bending, and lifting.

The specific guidelines of such a regimen are adjusted to meet an individual's needs.

Although exercise is very beneficial for osteoporosis, you should not depend on it alone to manage it. Diet and nutrition, especially calcium and vitamin D, are very important. If your body shows signs of osteoporosis, consult your doctor to determine how to integrate other treatment options to improve your condition.

(Source: Isaac Schiff, MD., Menopause, Random House)

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