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Healthy Eating Tips For Women At 40   
 
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08-Feb-2015  
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Aging is inevitable but those years of careful preparation (healthy lifestyle) before and after age 40 will build and strengthen the body. A healthy diet and lifestyle are keys to a good life.  
   
From age 40 and beyond, activities of certain hormones begin to decline in the body. In women, there is a reduction in the production of oestrogen (hormone that provides a woman with the female characteristics), progesterone (hormone that prepares a woman for pregnancy) and follicle stimulating hormone (needed for menstruation).

Cancer

Cancer can occur at any age, but it is much more likely after age 40, and the risk goes up as a woman grows older. Common cancers among women in Ghana are breast and cervical cancers. Breast cancer is the most common cancer that women may face in their lifetime. Some women may have a greater chance of having breast cancer than others. Cervical cancer can affect any woman who is or has been sexually active. It occurs in women who have had the human papilloma virus (HPV). 

This virus is passed on during sex. Cervical cancer is also more likely to occur in women who smoke, have HIV or AIDS, have poor nutrition, and who do not get regular Pap tests (a test used to find changes in the cervix that can be treated before they become cancerous).

Reducing risk of cancer

Foods high in antioxidants which are widely distributed in fruits and vegetables will help reduce or prevent this disease condition. Moderate consumption of soya products is also known to reduce the risk of cancer. In cooking meat, care should be taken to remove all the visible fat from beef and poultry. Consumption of charcoal grilled foods such as kebab should be restricted or avoided as they may contain certain substances which may be carcinogenic (having the ability to cause cancer).

High Blood Cholesterol 

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body.  The body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and substances that help in the digestion of foods. The body is able to make all the cholesterol it needs, however, some of the foods we eat contain cholesterol and add up to the cholesterol in the body. 

Excess consumption of these foods results in high blood cholesterol. When this happens, the cholesterol builds up in arteries (blood vessels) and increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease. 

As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. Oestrogen is a female hormone which helps to keep a balance in cholesterol levels in women. After the age of menopause, women's low-density lipoprotein (LDL, also known as “bad cholesterol”) levels tend to rise putting them at risk of high blood cholesterol. Diets high in saturated fat also increase cholesterol levels in the blood.  

Reducing risk of high blood cholesterol 

Reduce intake of fried foods and processed foods such as meat pie, cakes and biscuits which are very high in trans-fat. This type of fat cannot be digested by the body and leads to increased levels of the “bad cholesterol” leading to blockage in the arteries. Restrict or avoid intake of organs of meat (examples: intestines, liver, kidneys, tripe) which are high in fat to reduce risk of high blood cholesterol. Eating whole grains and cereals such as brown rice, maize and oats helps to reduce or prevent this disease condition. Legumes (example; all kinds of beans) are also beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis (porous bones) is a disease of the bone. Calcium is stored in the bones and teeth and the bones remain strong throughout adulthood. From the age of 30, the bones slowly begin to thin out and this process is rapid after menopause and can result in painful fractures. A healthy diet contributes to maintaining maximum bone strength and boosting bone density. 

Reducing risk of osteoporosis

The most important nutrients for fighting Osteoporosis are calcium and vitamin D.  Fish and low fat milk provide the body with calcium, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Healthy snacks such as low fat and unsweetened yogurt are also good sources of calcium. The primary source of Vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. Some foods, especially dairy products, may also be fortified with vitamin D.

Heart Diseases

Established risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. Although these factors affect both women and men, other factors such as diabetes, menopause, pregnancy complications, mental stress and depression may play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women than men. 

Reducing risk of heart diseases

Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising can help reduce risk of heart diseases. A diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt help to reduce risk of heart diseases. Oily fishes such as salmon, tuna and mackerel helps keep the heart healthy. Foods that are low in salt (sodium) and high in potassium also reduce the risk of hypertension.  Fruits and vegetables are also rich sources of potassium and should be included in the diet frequently. Examples of high salty foods are canned foods, koobi, salted chips, and artificial spices.

Obesity 

Obesity is not a sign of good living; it is the forerunner of many diseases. High energy foods (refined starches and high fatty foods) may lead to increased weight gain. Late night eating and low physical activities are a good recipe for obesity. Obesity puts an individual at risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood lipids and heart-related diseases. Women after child birth are more likely to gain excess weight. Most often, this may be the result of their eating habits coupled with less physical activity.

Healthy eating food steps 

These foods have been put in the form of three food steps by the Ghana Dietetics Association (GDA) to make it easy to make healthy choices. 

Step one at the bottom of the tool includes carbohydrate foods; staples, cereals, fruits and vegetables. These foods should form the bulk of our meals. Eat six to nine choices daily.

Step two includes foods which supply proteins (Examples: fish, eggs, meat, milk) and should be eaten in moderation (two to three choices daily)

Step 3 includes foods which are mostly fat and oil sources which should be used in limited quantities (two to three choices daily)

At the age of 40 and above, women should make a conscious effort to visit a health professional at least once every year for medical check-up to maintain good health and prevent the risk of many diseases.

Adequate water intake is needed for the proper functioning of the body. Drinking about 6 – 8 glasses a day or 4 -5 sachets of water will help in the distribution of nutrients and elimination of waste from the body through urine and sweat.

Physical activity

Exercise has numerous benefits such as blood circulation, alertness, improved immunity and slows the rate of ageing. Exercising regularly also helps to control weight and brings about relaxation. All these benefits will make one feel and look better. It is important to engage in any form of moderate exercise on a daily basis or at least three-four times a week. Brisk walking, dancing, gardening, cooking, washing are examples of physical activities which are beneficial. 

Medical check-up

At the age of 40 and above, women should make a conscious effort to visit a health professional at least once every year for medical check-up to maintain good health and prevent the risk of many diseases. It is also recommended that women aged 40 and older should have mammograms each year and continue to do so as long as they are in good health.

 
 
Source: Daily Graphic
 
 

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