Muscle health is just as important as cardiovascular health. Strong muscles help protect joints, maintain balance and posture, and reduce the risk of falls, which is particularly important as bones become more brittle with age. Furthermore, maintaining muscle mass helps regulate metabolism and can combat weight gain, a common concern during menopause.


Skeletal muscle aging during menopause is a significant physiological change that affects women as they transition out of their reproductive years. This process is influenced by a variety of factors, primarily hormonal changes, and has implications for health and mobility. Here’s an overview of how skeletal muscle ages during menopause:


Hormonal Changes and Muscle Mass

The most prominent hormonal change during menopause is the decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen is known to have a protective effect on muscle mass and strength. Its reduction during menopause can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and muscle fiber size, a condition known as sarcopenia. Lower estrogen levels are also linked to a reduced ability of the body to synthesize new muscle proteins.


Impact on Muscle Function

As muscle mass declines, muscle strength and functionality also tend to decrease. This can lead to increased frailty, a higher risk of falls, and reduced mobility. The loss of muscle strength exceeds the loss of muscle mass, suggesting changes in muscle quality, not just quantity. This decrease in muscle quality is partly due to alterations in muscle composition, including an increase in fat infiltration into muscles, which can further impair muscle function.


Metabolic Changes

Estrogen influences carbohydrate metabolism by affecting the way muscles use glucose and insulin sensitivity. With the decline in estrogen, there can be an increased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, conditions that are also exacerbated by decreased muscle mass. Muscles play a critical role in glucose regulation, and their diminished function can lead to metabolic imbalances.


Exercise as a Countermeasure

Physical activity, particularly resistance and strength training, is a highly effective strategy to counteract muscle aging in menopause. Exercise helps to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, improve muscle mass and strength, and enhance insulin sensitivity. Regular exercise can also increase the levels of growth hormones that naturally decline with age, further supporting muscle health.


Nutritional Considerations

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in mitigating muscle loss during menopause. Diets rich in protein, essential amino acids (especially leucine), omega-3 fatty acids, and adequate in vitamin D and calcium are vital for maintaining muscle function and overall bone health.


In summary, skeletal muscle aging in menopause is driven largely by hormonal changes, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise significantly influence the extent of muscle degradation. Addressing these factors can help mitigate the effects of aging on muscle health and improve quality of life for menopausal women.


~ Dr. Mia Chorney

thePause co-founder and CPO