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Muscle Loss and Menopause

As women transition through menopause, a common finding is a decline in muscle mass and strength. This process, which is a part of the general aging process, is referred to as sarcopenia.

Why is muscle loss related to the menopause?

There is a strong correlation between the onset of menopause and muscle changes as estrogen levels decline.

Women’s muscles possess specific receptors to which estrogen attaches to help them function properly. Prior to the menopause, circulating estrogen in the body promotes muscle regeneration and contributes to muscle health.  This is particularly important during exercise and after muscle injury.

Research shows the menopause transition is a “vulnerable period for the loss of muscle mass.” In a 2021 study, researchers found that compared to women in early perimenopause, those in late perimenopause had 10 percent less muscle mass in their arms and legs. Postmenopausal women were also more likely to have sarcopenia than premenopausal or early perimenopausal women.

The menopause transition is associated not only with a decline in muscle mass, strength, and quality but also with changes in body fat distribution (greater levels of fat deposited around the abdominal area) and decreased bone density.

All these factors significantly contribute to a condition termed “sarcopenic obesity”, which is associated with increased body weight. These changes can influence overall health and quality of life in menopausal and post-menopausal women.

Why is it important to prevent muscle loss?

Being strong, avoiding frailty, and potentially living longer are reasons enough, but there are even more health benefits to making and maintaining as much muscle as possible, including:

  • A healthier heart – muscle mass is good for your heart – A 2021 study found that women with high muscle mass are less likely to die from heart disease.
  • Fewer hot flushes – studies have shown that maintaining higher levels of lean body mass during the menopause transition may protect against the development of vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and sweats).
  • Stronger bones – strength training to develop and maintain muscle can also help preserve bone health.
  • Lower risk of urinary incontinence
  • Improved overall metabolic health
Options for Muscle loss in Menopause

Options to prevent menopause-related muscle loss

Perimenopausal and menopausal women should consider a health and well-being programme that includes moderate weightlifting or resistance exercises to help mitigate muscle loss.

Women should aim to strength train at least twice a week and eat enough protein at every meal to give their body the fuel it needs to make and maintain vital muscle mass.

In terms of treatment options, there is good evidence that estrogens and especially estradiol, can play a key role in the preservation of muscle health in older women. Several studies of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) have shown that menopause-related obesity and loss of lean and skeletal muscle mass can be reversed.

Studies have also shown that the use of HRT in early in the menopause transition compared to later, resulted in an increased number of muscle stem cells (also called satellite cells), as well as an improvement in mobility and muscle strength.

Why New Woman Health?

At NewWoman Health we have a commitment to educating, advising, treating, and supporting women approaching, during, and following menopause. Our wide range of medical and lifestyle interventions helps women to manage or minimise their menopause symptoms and improve their quality (and potential longevity) of life in an aspirational and uplifting way.

If you’re concerned about your menopause transition and/ or other menopause-related problems, including treatment options, we can support you with our personalised medical consultations with menopause specialists. Take the next step in ensuring your long-term health and quality of life by booking a consultation with us today.

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You are not alone. As a local example, in Manchester over 46% of council employees are female and over 40 years old. In a CIPD survey (2019) over 30% of women said they were unable to work because of menopausal symptoms.

Only 25% said they could tell their manager the real reason for their absence. The Council account for nearly 7% of all employment in Manchester. They implemented a new Menopause policy in March 2022. CIPD survey | Manchester Council Menopause Policy | CIPD Manchester

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