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I am a New Zealand registered nurse and nutritionist (Grad Cert Sci: nutrition, Massey Univ). I am a Certified Zone Instructor, and have worked teaching Zone diet principles to hundreds of clients over the last 10 years. More recently after finding that eating Paleo food choices was the "icing on the cake" health wise, I have become a Paleo enthusiast and teacher. Follow me on twitter @juliannejtaylor

Menopause update. A simple strength test that correlates with mortality

My body has recently gone through a big marker of the aging process and I’m now officially menopausal, this milestone has made me increasingly interested in the state of old age.  When one realises that there are far fewer years left to live than one has already lived, it becomes increasingly important to make them productive, and to do this mind and body to be in good shape.

The dumb things I did when I was younger are unimaginable now (smoking for example). Whether I like it or not, my body is changing with age. Menopause hit pretty suddenly about 18 months ago, paleo and CrossFit did not make me immune to symptoms, however I believe they lessened the impact considerably. As many other women have reported, menopausal symptoms are dramatically reduced eating a paleo diet. The comments from women at the end of this post are anecdotal evidence of this: “Q&A: Is Paleo Good for Menopausal Women?”

So how was / is menopause for me?

Well – I had hot flushes, often many times a day, especially for the first 8 months. They lasted just a few minutes, I’d tear off the cardigan – then I’d feel a chill. Now however – they are pretty much gone. 2 or 3 a day now, short and slight. I had a few associated sweats, but not bad.

Yes – I did / do have brain fog. Things are harder to remember. When something goes into my brain that I need to remember, it feels a bit like it has disappeared into a swamp, and I wonder if I’ll ever retrieve it. What made a difference for me  was taking omega 3 as a supplement as well as eating fish. I’m not sure the reason – but Dr Sears OmegaRx has a noticeable impact on my brain and energy levels. Perhaps because I have auto-immune issues I need a higher dose of omega 3. Despite that I did as well as I expected in my first post grad paper early last year. I notice I need to make a greater effort to retain information than when younger.

My sleep has never been affected, I sleep really well, nearly always a solid 8 hours a night. I take magnesium daily. I do make sure my life is not stressful though. I work as much as I can handle, not more – I refuse to be some superwoman! I work part time, I took just one post grad paper past year, and because of the nature of my husbands work – I do the majority of house stuff and am the main kid taxi.

I’ve put on a bit of torso fat, and irritatingly my favourite dresses are a tad too tight, I need to be able to breathe when I look good! Recent blood tests have shown my thyroid is finding it hard to keep up hormone production, so the despite hoping I’d never have too – I’ve started taking a low dose of levothyroxine. Thankfully the waist has started to trim down, and I feel better on it.

Here is my most recent pic – I know you want to know what a 53 year old post menopausal CrossFitting paleo nutritionist with Hashimoto’s looks like! Here I am with Dr Anastasia Boulais after they presented the Whole9 workshop in Cairns.

julianne anastasia jan 2013

Keeping up strength

When I look at  old folks (I mean older  than me) the BIG difference in looks (yes I am a bit vain!) is that those who have a strong body – good muscle tone look so much younger. As we age we lose around 250 grams of muscle every year after the age of 30. This kind of muscle loss is entirely unnecessary. As we get older body and mind maintenance takes far greater effort; memory and learning, diet and health, keeping strong. Mortality of all types is strongly associated with loss of muscle mass and strength. There are numerous examples of men and women who have made an effort to keep strong and fit. They look and act years younger than their age. These are the people I’m interested in – not the norm, but those who show us a better way.

A simple strength test

How do you test whether or not you have enough strength to maximally decrease your mortality risk? Try this simple test: Lower yourself to the floor using the minimum amount of help from arms, then stand back up – again without using your arms at all if possible. If you use no arms – you score 5, just one arm score 4, and so on. Those who scored 4 – 5 on the way down and again on the way up giving a total of 8 to 10 had a much lower mortality

Like this:

sit stand test

Watch the entire video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCQ2WA2T2oA

And read about the study here Ability to Sit and Rise from the Floor Is Closely Correlated With All-Cause Mortality Risk

The study authors note:

“If a middle-aged or older man or woman can sit and rise from the floor using just one hand – or even better without the help of a hand – they are not only in the higher quartile of musculo-skeletal fitness but their survival prognosis is probably better than that of those unable to do so.”

I had to try this a few times – but I’m pleased to report I score 5 on the way down and on the way up.

Have you tried this test? Anything less than an 8 PLEASE – seriously consider upping your strength exercise.

And if you are a female like me – what has your experience of menopause been?

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21 Responses to “Menopause update. A simple strength test that correlates with mortality”

  1. Rose #

    Please keep researching and writing on menopause and Paleo. I am 57 years old and have been suffering with menopausal depression, hot flashes and poor sleep for the last three years. I have been Paleo for the same amount of time and my symptoms persist. I have just started hrt to manage the hot flushes as my sleep was so disturbed that I was fearful of exacerbating my depression. Menopause is an underdiscussed topic particularly in the Paleo world.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:16 pm Reply
    • Thanks, yes I will. I know depsite a paleo diet, not everyone gets off as lightly as I have with regards to symptoms

      January 27, 2013 at 7:19 pm Reply
  2. Misa #

    I would like to ask you about your suggestion for people who does not have gallbladder. My mom 57 years old has no gallbladder for 10 years. She want to eat paleo diet but has found different opinion on this. Some nutritionist suggest to keep paleo low carb high fat diet and to supplement with ox bile and some advice to lower fat intake and higher healthy carbs. Or also some of them advice to keep high fat with no oxbile and wait what liver does. What would you suggest? Many thanks to you

    January 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm Reply
    • In my opinion, and I dont know your mother enough to make specific recommendations – so this is general rather than personal recommendation: Each meal – Have approx a palm of protein food (eg 3 – 5 oz meat, eggs, fish chicken etc) plus 1/2 – 1 fish of starch (sweet potato etc) plus fill the rest of your plate with colourful vegetables. Add a little fat – 2 plus teaspoons pure oil, 1 TLB or more nuts, 1/4 or more of an avocado. Have 3 meals a day.
      In you mothers case – add fat as tolerated. Personally I’m not a big fan of high fat low carb, except in some circumstances.

      January 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm Reply
  3. Have you had your hormone levels checked? Have you considered bio-identical hormone replacement therapy?

    January 28, 2013 at 3:37 am Reply
    • No I haven’t had my hormone levels checked. Just curious – why do you think I should consider hormone replacement?

      January 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm Reply
      • Ann #

        After a lifetime of never having weight problems, at 51 (in perimenopause) I am gaining visceral fat, a brand-new situation for me. I’m not much bothered about how it looks, but I understand that it’s a strong indicator (or even a cause?) of insulin resistance, and I am quite concerned about the health implications. Reducing my caloric intake (eating HFLC), I lost about 20 pounds (from 130 to 110), but it was all subcutaneous fat, and all the while the visceral kept gaining (and keeps gaining).

        This study is one of the reasons I am considering trying bio-identical hormones:

        http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/visceralfat.htm
        http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2012/08/26/db11-1779.full.pdf+html

        If you have any comments on the study, I’d be very interested!

        Thank you so much for the information you provide. Your info on Omega-6 was especially enlightening for me.

        December 9, 2013 at 5:18 am Reply
  4. Honora #

    I was having hot flushes every 40 minutes night and day with disturbed sleep from waking from the flushes so I went on HRT for a year or so. Then I wondered whether the flushes were so severe due to a DHEA deficiency where the DHEA fails to compensate adequately allowing ovarian estrogen production to segue into adrenal estrogen production. So I’ve had my DHEA levels measured but have yet to get hold of the results. In the meantime, the doctor has prescribed progesterone cream of which I’ve applied the first dose this evening. Not sure why she thinks this will do the trick as as far as I’m concerned I haven’t been diagnosed with estrogen dominance…my estrogen levels were around 60 pmols/L. I’ll have to find out have that fits with being postmenopausal.

    I may be commencing thyroid medication too if the current strategies fail to show improvement. Currently weakly positive for anti-TPO and the FT3 is mid-range with the FT4 being only 12. The herbal concoction didn’t effect any change to my results.I scored 9.5 for that test but don’t do any gym work, just tramping lots. Well done to you for your 10 and you still look pretty damn good. Glad the levothyroxine is improving things for you.

    January 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm Reply
    • I’ve been following a whole30 type meal plan (which is very similar to a zone type meal) but finding it really good for appetite and how I feel.
      Each meal has one (up to 2) palms of protein, about 1 fist of starch and then lots of non starch veg, like a large mixed salad. No between meal snacks. Alcohol minimal, about 1/2 a glass if I drink. I do crossfit 3 times a week most weeks. Strength and some high intensity shortish WODS (20 mins max). I’d vouch that this type of exercise is a critical part of my reduced symptoms.

      January 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm Reply
  5. Janet #

    I was having wicked hot flashes, too! What seemed to work for me was eliminating spices, especially black pepper but also any pepper such as cayenne, paprika, etc. First I eliminated nightshades, so you can try that, too. Completely gone for me, so maybe it will work for you.

    February 2, 2013 at 12:53 am Reply
    • Thanks, I might give that a try. I’m just starting coffee and alcohol free for the next 3 weeks to see if it helps my Hashimotos. Maybe it will help the hot flushes too.

      February 2, 2013 at 11:43 am Reply
  6. Mary Lewis #

    http://judytsafrirmd.com/the-power-of-bio-identical-progesterone/

    I can’t even describe how profoundly my symptoms have been effected by taking 300mg of bioidentical progesterone at bedtime. In March it will have been a year for me.

    February 11, 2013 at 6:54 am Reply
    • What symptoms were you getting that progesterone helped with?

      February 11, 2013 at 9:30 am Reply
      • Mary Lewis #

        Sleep disruption with multiple, sometimes hourly night awakenings with every year after I become menopausal. This was accompanied by night sweats which would also awaken me. For me have a night sweat is now a rarity. Sleep induction is excellent and quality of sleep – getting into a deep sleep,is consistent. I may awaken once in the night and go to the bathroom, but 95% of the time be able to return easily to sleep. No hot flashes during the daytime. NONE. I also experienced makred heat intolerance in general and this is gone. I am now comfortable in the same temp that others are comfortable in. Anxiety and irritability which I had controlled with short bouts of the right kind of exercise for me is markedly decreased. Mood disturbance which I think was the product of years of disrupted sleep is normalized. I developed PMDD in my late 30′s which became much worse – way over the top – in my 40′swhen I became perimenopausal.Additionally, at the age of 59 and maintaining a large weight loss since 02, this has been the easiest maintenance year by far of any, inspite of my age. As per Dr. Tsafrir’s statement re: increased cal burning capacity, this has been very true of me. I think that transdermal natural progesterone (like Emerita brand) in the right dosage can be effective for many symptoms for those who struggle in perimeno and meno. I would say that when I used it for several years in perimeno it greatly decreased the breast swelling, anxiety, irritabillity and mood disturbance.It wasn’t 100% but it helped ALOT. At the time I did not realize it, but I believe it was also greatly impacted successful weight loss. Stopping it when I became menopausa was a terrble mistake. With every year, the symptoms became worse. Starting the cream helped – about a 70% decrease in daytime hot flashing, greatly improved ease of weight maintenance, mild improvement in sleep disturbance, no improvement in sleep induction,moderate improvement in anxiety. If I used enough to make any impact on sleep then I would experience uncomfortable sleepiness during the day. (This is all during menopause,not perimenopause.)

        February 15, 2013 at 5:41 am Reply
        • Mary Lewis #

          To clarify my last post (I had to stop writing and do something) I restarted transdermal progesterone cream in menopause after 5+ years in menopause with worsening symptoms as described. It impacted me and was majorly helpful in some areas (daytime hot flashes, weight maintenance – very helpful, etc) but hardly touched the disrupted sleep and nightsweats. I used it this time for 5 months, then stopped and started 300mg progesterone at bedtime. This hugely impacted the night awakenings, quality of sleep and nightsweats, which are very much tied in with anxiety and mood disturbance that many women develop about a protracted period of time with very poor/light sleep. So, in menopause, the cream was helpful in some areas but oral progesterone in the right dose really, essentially, normalized me across the board.

          February 15, 2013 at 6:09 am Reply
  7. Anakei #

    I am perimenopausal at age 54. My aim was not to medicalise my menopause if I could help it. I have been primal 80/20 (dairy!) for about 2 years and low carb before that. In the past 2 months my periods have stopped and hot flushes went from 1or 2 at night to 2 or three HOURLY and several through the night. My gynae recommended a mirema (which releases progesterone) for the heavy periods I was experiencing and HRT if that doesn’t work, I went away to think about it and when browsing at the supermarket bought Remifemin which is a black cohosh supplement. I generally think all herbal medicines are prescribed by quacks for gullible people but I have to eat my words. After about 10 days the number of hot flushes reduced to a three or four a day and 1 at night and now after about 4 weeks I have not had a flush night or day for over a week. a week. I urge readers to try it before going on to more extreme treatments.
    The other disappointing effect of hitting menopause is the weight gain creep. I have gained around 2 kilos in the past 2 months in spite of not changing my diet or exercise. As I already eat as close to paleo as I can get except for the milk in tea and coffee, kefir as a probiotic and cheddar cheese as my go to snack, I am at a loss at how to control it except by calorie counting again :( I will have to try the whole 30 and hope that gets me back on track.. After 30 years of following the low fat high fibre mantra I had finally found a way of eating that didn’t obsess about points or caloriies or fat, and I don’t want to get sucked back into that world.
    Any way, there is a lack of information in the paleo world about the effect of menopause on metabolism so all power to your elbow if you can get any more information out to us. It was great to come across an interweb that wasn’t centred around 30 year old men!!

    September 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm Reply
    • Others have got real relief from Remifemin, a couple of women I know rave about it. It is used widely in Europe. I haven’t used anything, I went through a couple of years of hot flushes, but never that bad, only a few short ones each day, 1 or 2 at night – and never kept me awake.
      I dont like the weight gain much either. I’m on thyroxine for my thyroid, which started to underfunction about a year ago, that made a difference, but still weight gain is so easy now, especially round my belly. I’ll do some research. The main thing I am doing is maintaining my strength, lifting heavy and doing squats and pullups etc. Muscle mass and strength are so important as we age.

      September 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm Reply
  8. apelila #

    I am 53 years old, in menopause, I have Hashimotos and chronic fatigue for just over 3 years now.
    I’m using Armour thyroid and have suppressed my TSH, my FT3 & FT4 levels are “ideal” at mid range. I use bio identical hormone replacement; estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
    I’ve been Paleo for over a year. My antibodies dropped from 1100 to 900 but there have been no “great” changes from going Paleo. I don’t cheat or drink alcohol.
    I am exhausted and cannot exercise and at just over 5’6 I am a disgusting 183 lbs.
    (I spend most of my life as a size 4 and did weight lifting for 3 years in my 40′s.)
    I guessed since I cannot exercise I didn’t need a lot of food, but I’m wondering if I’m not eating enough. Any thoughts are help is welcomed, I’m considered partially disabled because of the fatigue, I need to get a life back.

    October 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm Reply
    • Do you take any supplements?

      October 7, 2013 at 9:59 am Reply
      • apelila #

        Yes, A to Z literally. I’ve studied everything I can find for adrenal support, Hashi’s and CFS and compiled this on my kitchen shelf: Glucobalance multi, Beta Carotene, Co Enzyme B Complex, extra B1, B5 and B12. Mega EPA/DHA, Selenium, NAC, Magnesium, Zinc and vitamins C, D,E and K .
        I also take a digestive enzyme with every meal and a total of 600mg Raw Adrenal Cortex daily.
        97% of what I eat is organic and grassfed, no processed foods at all and I’ve recently cut eggs too. I should be on top of the world physically with this nutrition but I can barely get off my sofa.

        October 8, 2013 at 5:26 am Reply

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