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.   

References 

  1. Kravitz HM, Joffe H. Sleep During the Perimenopause: A SWAN Story [Internet]. Vol. 38, Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am; 2011 [cited 2021 Jun 17]. p. 567–86. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21961720/
  2. Langade D, Thakare V, Kanchi S, Kelgane S. Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study. J Ethnopharmacol [Internet]. 2021 Jan 10 [cited 2021 Jun 17];264. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32818573/
  3. Borrás S, Martínez-Solís I, Ríos JL. Medicinal Plants for Insomnia Related to Anxiety: An Updated Review. Planta Med [Internet]. 2021 Jun 11 [cited 2021 Jun 17]; Available from: http://www.thieme-connect.de/DOI/DOI?10.1055/a-1510-9826
  4. Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2021 Jun 17];17(12):1161–9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853635/
  5. Randolph JF, Sowers MF, Bondarenko I, Gold EB, Greendale GA, Bromberger JT, et al. The relationship of longitudinal change in reproductive hormones and vasomotor symptoms during the menopausal transition. J Clin Endocrinol Metab [Internet]. 2005 Nov [cited 2021 Jun 17];90(11):6106–12. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16144949/
  6. Utian WH. Psychosocial and socioeconomic burden of vasomotor symptoms in menopause: A comprehensive review [Internet]. Vol. 3, Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. Health Qual Life Outcomes; 2005 [cited 2021 Jun 17]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16083502/
  7. Kashani L, Esalatmanesh S, Eftekhari F, Salimi S, Foroughifar T, Etesam F, et al. Efficacy of Crocus sativus (saffron) in treatment of major depressive disorder associated with post-menopausal hot flashes: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gynecol Obstet [Internet]. 2018 Mar 1 [cited 2021 Jun 17];297(3):717–24. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29332222/
  8. Evans M, Lewis ED, Zakaria N, Pelipyagina T, Guthrie N. A randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel study to evaluate the efficacy of a freshwater marine collagen on skin wrinkles and elasticity. J Cosmet Dermatol [Internet]. 2021 Mar 1 [cited 2021 Jun 17];20(3):825–34. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC8176521/
  9. Ghamari K, Kashani L, Jafarinia M, Tadayon Najafabadi B, Shokraee  kamyar, Esalatmanesh S, et al. Vitamin E and ginseng supplementation to enhance female sexual function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Women Heal [Internet]. 2020 Nov 25 [cited 2021 Jun 17];60(10):1164–73. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32893745/
  10. Cicero AFG, Derosa G, Brillante R, Bernardi R, Nascetti S, Gaddi A. Effects of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus Maxim.) on elderly quality of life: A randomized clinical trial. Arch Gerontol Geriatr [Internet]. 2004 [cited 2021 Jun 17];38(SUPPL.):69–73. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15207399/
  11. Thurston RC. Cognition and the menopausal transition: Is perception reality? [Internet]. Vol. 20, Menopause. 2013 [cited 2021 Jun 17]. p. 1231–2. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Fulltext/2013/12000/Cognition_and_the_menopausal_transition__is.3.aspx
  12. Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S, Bose S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. J Diet Suppl [Internet]. 2017 Nov 2 [cited 2021 Jun 17];14(6):599–612. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28471731/
  13. Sarker MR, Franks SF. Efficacy of curcumin for age-associated cognitive decline: a narrative review of preclinical and clinical studies [Internet]. Vol. 40, GeroScience. Springer International Publishing; 2018 [cited 2021 Jun 17]. p. 73–95. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29679204/
  14. Freeman EW, Sammel MD, Lin H, Nelson DB. Associations of hormones and menopausal status with depressed mood in women with no history of depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry [Internet]. 2006 Apr 1 [cited 2021 Jun 17];63(4):375–82. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/209523
  15. Tarleton EK, Littenberg B. Magnesium intake and depression in adults. J Am Board Fam Med [Internet]. 2015 Mar 1 [cited 2021 Jun 17];28(2):249–56. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25748766/
  16. Marx W, Lane M, Rocks T, Ruusunen A, Loughman A, Lopresti A, et al. Effect of saffron supplementation on symptoms of depression and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis [Internet]. Vol. 77, Nutrition Reviews. Oxford University Press; 2019 [cited 2021 Jun 17]. p. 557–71. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/77/8/557/5499264
  17. Eleni A, Panagiotis P. A systematic review and meta-analysis of vitamin D and calcium in preventing osteoporotic fractures [Internet]. Vol. 39, Clinical Rheumatology. Springer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH; 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 30]. p. 3571–9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32447604/

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