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Health Fusion: Manage menopause risk factors with activity

Menopause can make some women feel out of sorts. You might have hot flashes, act a little moody and gain weight. Plus your body's metabolism changes in ways that increase your risk of certain diseases. But a new study shows you can take some control back and it's all about getting up off the couch and moving more.

How many times has someone told you to exercise? Likely more than you can count, right? And if you're not a fan of exercise, you might find the suggestion to do so rather annoying. But a new study from Finland's University of Jyväskylä that shows how activity helps ward off metabolic risk factor changes during menopause might help reframe the picture for you.

Physical activity is a way people going through menopause might be able to feel like they have a little control during a time when their bodies are changing.

Metabolic risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and weight gain, especially around the waist. All of those things can increase your risk of health problems, such as heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

The study shows that physical activity - something you have control over -- may help reduce some of the negative metabolic changes associated with menopause. In particular, activity may help prevent an increase in systolic blood pressure. That's the top number on a blood pressure reading and it measures the force exerted onto your artery walls when your heart beats.

Researchers have long known that exercise is good for you as you age. But there's not a lot of data on how exercise helps during menopause, which is a time when these changes accelerate.

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So the researchers looked at three groups of women in different stages of menopause and followed then over 4 years. They confirmed that menopause is associated with negative metabolic changes. They also confirmed that the women who were physically active had better metabolic numbers than those who didn't.

The researchers didn't recommend how much physical activity you should get. Talk to your health care provider about a level of exercise that's safe and healthy for you.

And remember, moving more does not have to be drudgery. Focus on things you enjoy so you'll stick with it. Take your dog on a walk every day or walk loops at the mall with friends. Everything counts.

The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at vwilliams@newsmd.com . Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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