If you’re a woman over 30 and feeling more tired, foggy headed, or ‘off’ than your 20-something self, permission to stop dismissing your body’s red flags and start prioritizing you.
According to Dr. Kathryn Rexrode, MD, Chief of the Division of Women's Health in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the newest addition to Lifeforce’s Scientific Advisory Board, yes it’s normal for our bodies to undergo myriad changes in our 30s, 40s, and 50s, but the culprit isn’t always just the big job, #momlife, or crazy demands of our multi-hyphenate lives. We’re talking about hormones and the transitional period of perimenopause, aka when our bodies prepare to stop ovulating, which can start as early as our mid-30s and last for a decade before menopause’s arrival.
So what else are we missing about our hormone health, diet, and other clinically backed strategies to help us navigate these transitional years? Read on for three of the most surprising takeaways from our conversation with Dr. Rexrode, author of more than 250 research publications on women’s health, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. And be sure to watch the full interview above with Dr. Kerri Masutto, MD, functional medicine expert and Lifeforce’s VP of Clinical Operations, to go deeper into the science behind the symptoms, and get MD-approved tips for powering your peak life — during perimenopause, menopause, and beyond.
3 Things Women Over 30 Should Know About Their Health
1. Your hormone levels start changing earlier than you think.
“Our bodies and our hormone levels really do start changing probably somewhere in our mid to late 30s. And that process, until things stabilize, often goes into the mid 50s or even later,” says Dr. Rexrode. “I think many of my patients used to think of menopause as sort of a light switch, on and off, but instead it's really a several decades transition, and one which can often be forwards and backwards, and up and down,” she says.
What you can do: Take note of your symptoms, which can include sleep disruption, mood shifts, changes in your menstrual cycle, increased fatigue, brain fog, and in some cases hot flashes or night sweats. “As hormone levels change, it's a little like going reverse through puberty. It can cause a lot of disruption,” says Dr. Rexrode. Seeking out a doctor who specializes in women’s health is a great place to start.
LEARN MORE: Hormone Optimization for Women
2. You’re probably not getting enough calcium or vitamin D.
Building bone before menopause is critically important, says Dr. Rexrode. Why? Women have peak bone mass at age 30, and it declines from there, dropping off most dramatically during the menopausal transition. “Getting adequate vitamin D and calcium before menopause will ensure you don’t steal from your bone bank to make up for a lack in diet,” Dr. Rexrode says.
What you can do: “Ideally, a woman consumes at least 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium per day,” advises Dr. Rexrode. If your diet falls short, supplementing is key, particularly for vitamin D, which can be hard to get from sun exposure or from our dietary sources (unless you’re up for drinking eight cups of milk to get the recommended 800 IU per day). Not sure where you stand? Check your nutrient levels with a comprehensive blood test, like the Lifeforce Diagnostic.
3. You matter. Just as much as the people you care for.
There’s a lot the data can tell us. But there’s so much more to each woman’s story that we can’t ignore. “We have to recognize that this is a time of life where women are also often juggling a lot of other responsibilities in their work and family. All of these things interact together and it's why taking [all of these] changes into account is so essential to improving the health of women.”
And it’s pretty telling that “many women take the best care of themselves when they're pregnant, because that’s when they’re responsible for another being that they are nurturing,” notes Dr. Rexrode.
What you can do: “I ask my female patients to start by asking themselves, ‘How can I make time for myself?’ What would that look like? What needs to be negotiated for that to happen? What needs to shift in our own mindset to really say, ‘It's time to take care of my own health?’”
Consider this your sign.
Learn more about Lifeforce’s Hormone Optimization for Women HERE.
This article was medically reviewed by:
Vinita Tandon, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Endocrinology and Metabolism
Kerri Masutto, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner