Over 30 years ago in the early 1990’s, when I was a former ICU nurse, every now and again, there would be a call to go and help-out the busy nurses in the Coronary Care Unit. At the time, I didn’t give a thought to how many of these patients were women in their post-menopause years. But they were. Now that I’m in my post-menopause years myself, these memories make so much sense.
You see, women in post-menopause are one of the highest population cohorts to have increased risk for changing heart health as they age. Yes, weight gain is an issue, and so too is lack of sleep, but understanding that low magnesium exerts a powerful influence on our heart health is important to know too. I’ve had a busy time over the past few days with both Christmas festivities and getting organised for the MyMT™ JANUARY SALE (check it out HERE), but in between the lunch and the left-overs for dinner, I was excited to see a brand new study that helps all of us who are now in our post-menopause years.
Unbeknownst to me at the same time that I was a young nurse, helping out my colleagues in the CCU, over 153,000 post-menopausal women in America were entering one of the largest women’s health studies to be undertaken. Today I thank them.
As participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Study they were recruited between 1993 and 1998 and their magnesium intake at the time, was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire. It is well known that magnesium plays an important role in cardiac physiology, helping the heart to contract. Over the next decade, coronary heart disease was measured in this cohort as well as sudden death. This week, as we move into the New Year, a brand new women’s health study has gone back to this original research, reminding us that as we move into our post-menopause years, [when our periods have stopped for a year or more], then having adequate dietary magnesium (not supplements) matters.
When I take my Masterclass on Menopause seminars (please check my Events page as I’m in the UK at the end of the month), I often ask women if they are taking lots of supplements. Most are. When I then ask if they know the evidence behind their supplements, most don’t. But do they work? If they don’t, then what ones should we be taking, if any? That was my curiosity when so many of the menopause-related supplements I was taking didn’t seem to be helping my sleep, hot flushes, sore joints and energy levels. They also weren’t helping my weight either. Now I better understand that many of these herbal formulas didn’t have magnesium. As well, my food intake at the time wasn’t researched against the women’s healthy ageing studies that I was following.
Magnesium is a supplement that is heavily marketed to women in menopause. Often we don’t understand why, but as oestrogen declines, this has a negative effect on our blood vessels and blood pressure as well as our sleep. Studies have shown that when magnesium levels are low, this can contribute to over-stimulation of the brain nerve-transmitters as well as high blood pressure. But there’s another reason that low magnesium can be problematic for women in post-menopause, and this is because this fabulous mineral plays an important role in cardiac electro-physiology – it helps in the conduction of your heart beat and it helps to regulate your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is known as hypertension and according to Google, it was the highest searched health term in 2018. If many of these ‘searches’ were conducted by women in menopause, I’m not surprised. High blood pressure found it’s way to me in peri-menopause as well.
Getting our blood pressure checked in mid-life is as important as brushing our teeth. As I hope many of you do too, I get my BP checked every year, especially now that I’m post-menopausal. It’s crucial that you do this, because for women moving towards post-menopause, heart disease remains the number 1 health concern as they age in New Zealand, Australia, America and the UK. [WHO, 2017].
[Image Source: Researchgate]
I often talk about blood pressure and magnesium in my private coaching community. If we don’t manage our nutrition, blood pressure and turn around our sleep as we move through menopause, then anxiety increases, hot flushes run rampant and yes, many of you find that your joints and muscles ache more too. If you want to learn how to turn this health chaos around, including your weight, then yes, the MyMT™programmes teach you how.
When I learnt that heart disease in post-menopause remains the highest health risk for women as they age in most western countries, my curiosity was ‘why’?
Yes, menopause itself puts up into higher risk for changing heart health, but there are other factors that aren’t related to your genetics or your family history and according to the World Health Organisation these are:
- a diet high in processed foods and sugar with lower intake of fruits and vegetables.
- physical inactivity and/or excessive exercise.
- over-consumption of alcohol.
The effects of these risk factors may show up as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and becoming overweight and obese. But to me, there is a part of the puzzle missing – and that’s the risk posed by not sleeping in menopause and not having the correct nutrition so that we obtain the specific nutrients that our body needs at this time of life.
Women’s health and ageing research is replete with cardiovascular disease studies. The declining health of our mother’s generation have paved the way for this type of research in older women. How people are ageing is also gaining more interest from policy makers and medical and healthy ageing researchers are discovering more about heart disease every year. For many women, menopause is the start of their changing heart health … but here’s the thing that our mother’s generation didn’t know – it doesn’t have to be this way.
High blood pressure and heart disease don’t have to become the inevitable pathway into older age and MyMT™ women who join me are discovering this too.
Menopause is the time of our lives when we are most at risk of high blood pressure and changing heart health and researchers now understand that our mid-life years are the time to change how we look after ourselves.
It’s why I’m passionate about women changing their lifestyle during menopause to suit their changing hormonal environment. With women’s death rate from heart disease in America nearly eight times higher than death rates from cancer and New Zealand, Australia and the UK leading the world in heart disease incidence too, I knew from reading the research that hormonal changes in menopause may also be involved.
There are three main factors that may be being left out of the risk-factor conversations:
- Menopause related insomnia – Who isn’t sleeping? If this is you, then please come and join me, because when we don’t sleep we don’t heal and recover overnight. This is particularly concerning for women who are avid exercisers. As the first generation of women to go into menopause in the context of doing lots of exercise, if they aren’t sleeping then they aren’t improving their immune health overnight, nor are they burning fat. Being overweight in post-menopause increases risk for changing heart health.
2. Stress – both emotional stress and oxidative stress. The research connecting these two types of stress to heart disease is well evidenced but not conclusive. One of the other issues that needs to be taken into account is the connection between not sleeping, high levels of physical activity and inflammation in joints, muscles (including cardiac muscle) and tissues. This leads to increased inflammation and what is known as ‘oxidative stress’, especially in the beautiful mitochondrial cells, which store our precious oxygen. When inflammation is high in the body, blood pressure can change too.
3. Vascular stiffness in blood vessels.
Menopause is the gateway to our biological ageing. As such, there are changes to our blood vessels and other organs too. In an age whereby media and pharmaceutical companies focus on marketing to promote anti-ageing, the salient point of our internal ageing gets forgotten. When menopause arrives, there are numerous structural changes that occur in our body, not just changes to our oestrogen and progesterone levels. This is an important point for regular exercisers. When we keep doing the exercise that we’ve always done, eating the way we have eaten for decades and living the life that we have lived, sometimes our body fights back – usually in the form if increasing inflammation. Part of this is due to vascular stiffness. The loss of elasticity means that for those of you who do lots of exercise, your inflammatory response kicks into gear and your legs can feel heavy, restless and aching. It’s a puzzle for so many female Personal Trainers who are have done lots of exercise for years, and many experience changing heart health as well.
These internal changes going on ‘inside’ our body are important for all of us to understand. It’s why I decided to only target women in their menopause transition with the design of the MyMT programmes – it’s no good for us to do other exercise or nutrition programmes that take a one-size-fits-all approach.
With vascular stiffness increasing our risk of cardiac disease as we age, one of the strategies that I promote in the MyMT programmes is to get women thinking about the magic of magnesium.
This research wasn’t out when our mother’s generation was going through menopause. Adequate magnesium is important as we move through menopause into post-menopause. This is why it features in the MyMT™ Food Guide that women access in their learning hub when they join me. Australia’s women’s health expert, Dr Sandra Cabot, values it as important too,
“To have a mineral found in nature, a mineral your body needs, a mineral that is easily and cheaply available (in pill or powder form) and known to be useful in treating or preventing dozens of medical conditions – to me, that sounds like a dream come true.” [Cabot, S. (2004). Magnesium the Miracle Mineral. SCB International Inc.
Why you may need Magnesium in Menopause:
Magnesium supplements have sky-rocketed over the past decade or so and heavily marketed to women in their menopause transition as the panacea for hot flushes, night sweats and other aches and pains. But there is another important role for magnesium in menopause too. And that is to help reduce our risk of heart disease and to regulate our blood pressure.
New research indicates that for women during menopause, magnesium is an important co-factor (helper) mineral for a number of enzyme functions that work specifically in cardiac mitochondria. And with my eye on our cardiac health as we age and go into post-menopause, there’s never been a better reason than menopause, to have a little re-think and focus on magnesium!
Barbara who is a rural farming woman in New Zealand, had been frustrated with joint problems during her menopause transition, and I was so excited for her that she had learnt how to turn this around. With the right nutrition as well as sorting out sleep and blood pressure, she discovered the joy of feeling like her old self again. Magnesium is important for healing and so too, is it’s opposing partner, calcium. The two help to balance and restore muscle and nerve function in the body and help in a heap of other reactions in the body during menopause as well. Crucial for women who are busy and active on the farm, as Barbara is as well.
We need around 35omg to 400mg daily of magnesium and preferably from our diet. As an ‘essential mineral’ this means that our body doesn’t make it. With magnesium involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions involving energy metabolism and blood pressure regulation, it is pretty important to our health and energy. For us girls going through menopause, it is also important for:
- helping hormones to bind to receptor cells
- the prevention of too much calcium getting into cells
- muscle contraction and nerve activity (along with calcium)
- control of blood vessel dilation and tone
- helping nerve impulses to pass through cardiac muscle.
But perhaps the most important issue, is that magnesium deficiency has been shown to play a role in inflammation and when our body is stressed (as it is when we aren’t sleeping in menopause), then magnesium deficiency also leads to an exaggerated response to even more stress, especially in our cells and tissues, through our nerve-hormonal pathways. This type of stress is called oxidative stress and makes our hot flushes, muscle and joint pain and weight gain become worse during menopause. It’s so great when women learn how to turn all this chaos around. So please come and join me on my January Intake. The promo code to access your $50 savings is JANUARY20 and yes, monthly payments for 3 months are available for you.
There are several factors that can cause low magnesium. Top of my list, would be an unhealthy liver or gut. If we have inflammation in these organs, then any magnesium that we do have in our diet, cannot be absorbed properly.
Many women don’t have ideal gut health to absorb as much magnesium as their body needs and it’s why I include a GUT HEALTH REJUVENATION GUIDE to those women who join me.
Next on my list is too much exercise or every-day stress and rushing around. When this occurs and we are always in ‘fight or flight’ mode, then our lovely long vagus nerve is always stimulated. This increases gut motility or movement, and when this happens, again, the food passes through our gut too quickly, so absorption time is delayed. Studies have also shown that the quality of our food and food processing means that magnesium can be deficient in our diet, but alcohol can decrease magnesium uptake as can osteoporosis medication as well as poor water levels of magnesium.
The significance of magnesium and its relationship to the origin of life has been traced by researchers interested in the body’s dependence on it. In their 1999 review article on magnesium, Fawcett, Haxby & Male contend, “The importance of magnesium is derived from the composition of the earth’s crust (rich in iron–magnesium silicate) and the primeval ocean rich in magnesium, to the formation of chlorophyll with magnesium at the centre of the molecule, and finally to its incorporation into the animal cell containing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) with its dependence on magnesium. When magnesium levels get low, then we can experience leg cramps, increased muscle twitching and cardiac palpitations. With these all noted symptoms of menopause hormonal changes, then yes, maybe we do need to look at our magnesium levels every so often.
There are some great ways we can improve magnesium uptake during menopause:
1. Epsom Salts: Magnesium has been used as a therapeutic agent for hundreds of years and well before pharmaceutical companies sold magnesium to us in bottles! Magnesium-rich waters of Epsom Spa Town have been known to be beneficial ever since the 16th Century (this is where Epsom Salts were discovered). But there is also caution, because Epsom was also the site of our early knowledge about the dangers of too much magnesium, when in 1891, 4 ounces of Epsom Salts caused magnesium poisoning and complete muscular paralysis in a 35 year old woman.
2. Food Sources: If you want to use your diet to increase magnesium rather than supplements, then get more beans, nuts and whole grains into you. For my amazing women on the MyMT programmes, I get them to increase their intake of organic brown rice, green leafy vegetables and they can also have bananas, dark chocolate and of course, a black coffee – all foods and drinks which are rich sources of magnesium and other healthy nutrients. If they have gut health problems, then they also work through the MyMT™ GUT REHAB plans which are included in the programme for women who need them.
3. Artesian Water: When I was in Switzerland earlier this year, I couldn’t believe how nice the water tasted in the small village I was visiting. Everywhere in the village were wells brimming over with glacial water coming down from the Swiss Alps. I discovered that the ‘magic’ of these waters lay in two minerals – calcium and magnesium. Further investigation and local knowledge, led me to discover that just 1 litre of this beautiful alpine water delivers around 50% of the daily requirements of calcium and magnesium to drinkers. No wonder I was told that many locals live to a ripe old age!
Magnesium is a vital tool in our dietary tool-box as we transition through menopause as are most minerals and vitamins. But if we aren’t absorbing these nutrients then the priority is to turn around the gut, liver and cardiac inflammation that prevents magnificent magnesium from doing its job. I cover how to do this in my 12 week programmes too.
Sometimes we do need a boost from supplements, but other times we can get adequate amounts from improving our focus on the right foods at different life stages. One of the things that women love about the MyMT™ programmes [‘Circuit-Breaker’ and ‘Transform Me’] is that I’ve done all the research for them around what to eat and when. Every single women coming onto either of these programmes gets my FOOD GUIDE as well as dozens of RECIPES. As I say to each and every one of the MyMT™ Community,
“When it comes to our menopause transition, you don’t need a lot of food, just the right food. That includes the right food for your heart health as you transition menopause – this aspect of our nutrition as we age is being forgotten in a world of unhealthy and not-so-well evidenced dietary claims, many of which don’t focus on women going through menopause.”
[Dr Wendy Sweet, PhD/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine].
I designed the MyMT™ 12 week programmes for women going through menopause, or those of you who are now in post-menopause. These programmes were created for the reduction of my own symptoms, including turning around my blood pressure and sleep, when endless supplements and hormone therapies didn’t work (Read my Story HERE),
MY TWO COACHING PROGRAMMES ARE ON SALE FOR YOU NOW:
Based on my women’s healthy ageing research, everything you learn, will simply, change your life. Each self-learning online programme is normally NZ$99 per month for 3 months but I now have these ON SALE for you as part of my January 2020 promotion – NZ$87/ AUS$80/ UK£45 per month for 3 months, which includes my personalised coaching too. Please select the programme which best suits you HERE and then use the promo code JANUARY20. Part-payment options are available too, making this fabulous programme better suited to your budget. Please note that this price won’t be repeated in 2020. For more information then you can also watch my VIDEO HERE.
Wendy Sweet, [PhD/ Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher and MyMT™ Coach/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine].
DiNicolantonio, Liu et al. (2018). Magnesium for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. BMJ
Fawcett, Haxby & Male (1999). Magnesium physiology & pharmacology.
Li, J., Hovey, K. et al. (2020). Association of dietary magnesium intake with fatal coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. Journal of Women’s Health, 29(1), 1-6.