For Women

A Nutrition Guide for Women's Health

By Dorit Adler and Rivki Harari, Clinical dieticians

There are good news about nutrition. Small changes in eating habits may have large effects on your appearance and health. No need to follow an extreme diet to get results. The fact is an extreme diet is a recipe for obesity. Recent studies highlight the combined effect of a healthy weight and moderate activity on improved health and risk reduction of diseases that are common in modern society. These include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

This is the time to make this small change that can lead to large gains in your health and the way you look now!!.
A healthy weight = healthy women. The key to health is to recognize your responsibility. The first step is to reach and maintain healthy weight.

Changes in body weight
Several studies indicate a trend of body weight gain during menopause. A common belief that is not supported by evidence is that hormone replacement therapy can cause weight gain in menopausal women. A Hadassah study by Prof. Amnon Brzezinski in conjunction with the nutrition and diet department of Hadassah found that there was no difference in weight gain between a group of women that received the hormone treatment compared to a control group that did not receive treatment. Both groups had a tendency to gain weight regardless of hormone treatment.

Good news for overweight women, even a 5-10% weight loss improves health. If you weigh 65 kg a 5-6 kg weight loss will greatly improve your health. Studies have demonstrated that loss of a few kilograms plus physical activity has a positive effect on blood pressure, lipid levels and blood sugar.

A realistic weight loss goal is better than the familiar cycle of crash diets and frustration. Weight is lost quickly only to be regained within a short time. This pattern leads to obesity.

Body composition and fat distribution
Today we have a better understanding of how body body fat effects health. Studies reported there are two forms of obesity. In "apple type obesity" fat deposits are concentrated mainly in the abdominal area. This type of pattern is more typical for men and is related to higher risk of heart disease. "Pear type obesity" is associated with fat deposits that are concentrated mainly in the buttocks and thighs. This type of distribution is more typical of women of reproductive age and is related to a lower risk of heart disease. During menopause there is a change in the distribution of body fat. The hormone change in women during this time of life causes an increase in fat deposits in the area of the abdomen and menopausal women develop "apple type obesity ". This change in where fat accumulates leads to an increased risk of heart disease in women after menopause. Exercise can help limit this abdominal fat gain.

Exercise – No time for that?
Modern life involves the new attitude of "let your fingers do your walking". As a result, we avoid any activity. Sounds great - maybe? But what about the effect on your body? In the past, ancient man had to chase for a day or more for food. Our bodies are designed for movement. Today quick snacks and meals are all around us. Just sit in front of the television and all forms of media advertisements make us aware of these fast foods. Food is available at every celebration, meeting, or trip. The result is more food and less activity than we need. This leads to more obesity and increased risk of disease. There are many recently published studies that illustrate the benefits of physical activity in reducing risk factors of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, hypertension and osteoporosis and certain cancers.
Exercise can also help people quit smoking and even improves mood significantly.

There are many activities from moderate walking to more vigorous activity. Studies found that a shorter activity several times a day had a positive impact. The intensity of the exercise is also important. An activity at a higher intensity level, was more effective than moderate activity. However, exercise can also be a risk for inactive people. Therefore, consult a doctor before starting exercise. Meet with a professional in the field to match the type and intensity to your condition, lifestyle and preferences.

Heart Health
There is a strong relationship between lifestyle and heart health. A healthy lifestyle protects blood vessels and prevents heart disease. Research indicates that weight gain, as well as the menopausal changes in body composition and fat distribution from pear shape to apple shaped obesity results in a higher risk of heart disease. It is important for you to be aware of the possibility of weight gain during menopause. A study of menopausal women published recently, which lasted eight years found that risk of heart disease was 50% higher in healthy weight women and 100% higher in obese women.

Innovations in the diet - a focus on postmenopausal women It was known for years that women of childbearing age had better blood vessel function and a lower risk of heart disease than men. However, the medical community only recently became aware of the menopausal changes in physiological, hormonal and psychological functions. Changes occur in a number of risk factors. Levels of LDL Cholesterol, "bad cholesterol ", tend to rise and levels of HDL "good cholesterol", tend to fall, with the end of the menstrual cycle. These changes in lipid profile, increase risk of atherosclerosis. Therefore, it is important to periodically monitor the fasting blood lipid profile.

The following nutrition guidelines are recommended for a healthy lipid profile:
Reduce total fat intake: Limit fat to 30% of total calories.
Monounsaturated fat is preferred and is found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados and almonds. Reduce consumption of saturated fat which is mostly found in animal foods such as meats and dairy products. Hydrogenated vegetable oils such as margarine are also mostly saturated. These vegetable oil products also contain fatty acids called "trans" which also have a negative impact on lipid levels.