Suman Agarwal is a certified nutritionist (Oxford University) and qualified fitness trainer (National Institute of Aerobics, Mumbai) who has been improving the health of people from different walks of life, including the country’s most powerful industrialists and movie stars, for the past ten years. This week, You & I spoke with Suman about the changes faced by women as they enter middle age and beyond.
“There is a sea change in a woman’s body (and in her life) as she enters her 40s,” Suman tells us. “All women should be aware of how they can tackle the onset of menopause without feeling the impact on their bodies and minds. As you cross the threshold of 40 years, the first signs you see are those of ageing.
“The second group of signs is muscular – joint aches and pain, as well as weight gain (especially in abdominal areas). Hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles, and increased risks of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are also problems. By following these six simple guidelines, you can correct these changes and minimise damage.”
• Never resort to crash and fad diets, as they can have a severely negative impact on your health.
Suman’s first tip is one for all people to follow, but it holds especially true for women entering their 40s and 50s. Crash diets shock the body into losing a small amount of weight in a short period of time, but this is not so straightforward. The lost weight is usually water, and if any fat is lost, it’s usually put back on once you resume your normal diet.
• Don’t go fat-free as it will push you closer towards signs of ageing and osteoarthritis. Follow a balanced, healthy diet with sufficient protein and fat.
Fat is a crucial part of a balanced diet, but the trick is in knowing what kinds of fat to consume. Avoid saturated and synthetic fats, such as those found in processed foods. Almonds, olive oil and certain types of fish are good sources of beneficial fat and protein. These keep you full for longer periods of time and lubricate joints that are more prone to damage.
• Check your vitamin D3, which keeps your bones strong. Take supplements if the levels are low.
Along with calcium, vitamin D forms the backbone of most women’s nutritional supplements. The D group of vitamins are vital to your well-being, but because they are found so rarely among natural food sources, people usually rely on supplements and organic synthesis.
• Exercise to tone up your muscles.
Keeping your muscles active while eating a balanced diet tells your body that any energy it expends will be replaced, reducing your tendency to put on weight. Suman suggests an hour of walking every day, but your needs may be different. Speak to your doctor and/or a physical trainer about what’s best for your body.
• Take a Coq10 supplement for its anti-ageing, anti-cancer and cardiovascular benefits.
Coenzyme Q10, or Coq10 for short, is a vitamin-like substance used to treat a number of conditions such as heart and dental problems, Huntington’s disease, migraines, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Natural sources of Coq10 include lean beef and chicken, soybean oil, peanuts and avocado.
• Consume at least 500 ml of dairy to keep osteoporosis at bay.
As women enter their 40s, they are constantly reminded of the benefits of calcium in preventing bone and joint damage. Osteoporosis – which makes bones more susceptible to fracture – is common among older women. To combat this, consume a recommended amount of skimmed milk, yoghurt, cheese and other dairy products. ..... Ashwin