Body Changes in your 40s

By the Suvi Labs team.

Body changes in your 40s

Although age does not define us, there are some natural changes that women may notice when they reach their forties. Being aware of what these are, what to look out for and what can be done to control and relieve symptoms can help women to navigate these changes and live life to the full.  

What happens as we age?

As women age there is a natural decline in fertility and levels of our reproductive hormones start to decline. It is these changing and fluctuating hormone levels that give rise to body changes and symptoms we may have never encountered before. While menopause doesn’t usually occur until the age of 45-55, mild symptoms and changes can start as early as your late thirties and early forties. 

The symptoms of menopause are often treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), where the lost hormones are replaced to relieve symptoms. Some people react very well to HRT and generally the benefits outweigh the risks. However, HRT can come with an increased risk of breast cancer or blood clots for some people which may make its use unsuitable. 

Perimenopause is the term used to describe the last few years of a woman's reproductive life, symptoms of perimenopause usually start out mild and can easily go unnoticed, the first usually being irregular menstrual cycles. At this time it may be too early to consider treatments such as HRT however, there are some non-hormonal agents and lifestyle changes which have been evaluated for their effects on these hormone related changes to a woman’s body that can help to improve quality of life and may make the transition towards menopause a little smoother. 

What changes should I look out for?

Body shape can change with many people finding it more difficult to manage weight due to a decline in metabolic rate. Declining oestrogen levels mean that rather than carrying weight predominantly in the thigh and buttocks area, women may now carry more weight around their abdomen. Opting for resistance exercises as well as a healthy diet can help to combat these changes in body composition.  

Fluctuating hormone levels can also affect sleeping patterns (1) for women in their forties. Practicing good sleep hygiene such as removing electronic devices, sleeping in a dark quiet room and practicing relaxing rituals can help combat sleep disturbances. 

There is some evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha root, an ancient medicinal herb, can help to improve sleep quality (2) as well as insomnia related to anxiety (3). Magnesium is involved in the regulation of our sleep and our normal circadian rhythms and not having enough of it can interfere with our sleep (4). 

Hot flashes are a pretty well-known symptom of the menopause, however they can also be experienced by 30-70% of premenopausal women (5). These types of symptoms can often cause a substantial amount of distress and reduction in quality of life for many women (6). Saffron has been evaluated for its effects as a non-hormonal agent for treating hot flashes and it may be a safe and effective treatment for improving hot flashes (7).

The skin can start to feel different as we age, due to the reduction of elastin and collagen and a reduction in skin cell turnover. Marine collagen can have a beneficial effect on skin wrinkles and elasticity (8). 

Loss of sex drive at this age can be a concern for some women and can affect relationships and quality of life. Siberian ginseng is a medicinal herb which is often mentioned when talking about alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms. There is some research to suggest it can help to improve sexual desire (9). It may also play a role in improving some aspects of mental health and social functioning as we age (10) which could improve quality of life.  

Sixty percent of middle aged women report difficulty concentrating or other cognitive issues such as memory loss or brain fog (11). Memory does improve over time however the period of perimenopause can be the most difficult. Ashwagandha root (12)  and curcumin, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant found in turmeric, both have evidence to suggest they may be effective in mitigating cognitive decline (13).  

The risk of depression and anxiety is increased for women going through these body changes (14). Strategies that can help to reduce these feelings can include regular exercise, adopting good sleeping habits, practicing mindfulness and eating a nutrient rich diet. Deficiency in magnesium in particular has been related to increased risk of depression and anxiety (15). Saffron could also be an effective intervention for symptoms of depression and anxiety (16). 

Regularly partaking in resistance exercise, cutting down on alcohol, coffee and spicy foods and stopping smoking can be beneficial at this period of life and during the later years of menopause for managing symptoms. Ensuring adequate vitamin D intake is also recommended to reduce the risk of age-related bone loss (17). 

If you are experiencing body changes associated with age related hormonal fluctuations it is recommended that you speak to your healthcare professional to discuss the right treatment strategies for you to ensure a safe and effective journey through this life stage.   


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