You’ve heard it a million times- drink eight glasses of water daily to stay full; after all, hunger is often just masked thirst. But is drinking that much water a day really necessary? Or is it just hype?
It turns out that the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water a day is one of the greatest medical myths of all time, according to Aaron E Carroll, MD, and co-author of a paper in the BMJ that found no scientific evidence to support the claim that drinking eight glasses of water is beneficial. Dr. Carroll cited the myth’s origin from a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people do need about 2.5 liters of water a day, but that amount is usually found in the diet through prepared foods and juice, coffee, or tea.
In fact, Dr. Carroll and his co-author stated in the BMJ that drinking too much water can cause water intoxication, upsetting electrolyte balances. And while staying adequately hydrated is important for joint and skin health, our bodies signal thirst long before we are close to becoming dehydrated.
We all know there’s no shortage of health “advice” found on the internet. And while some tips are helpful, others can be downright dangerous to women over 50, who are dealing with declining hormone levels that can lead to increased risk of injury and heart disease.
We talked to Holly DuBrey, RN, for her expert take on common health tips women over 50 should ignore:
1. Eat more soy after menopause. While research on the benefits of soy are mixed- some studies show that soy may improve symptoms of menopause while others don’t- DuBrey points out that too much soy can cause health problems. “Soy has one of the highest concentrations of phytoestrogens (plant-based compounds with estrogenic activity) of any known regularly-consumed dietary source. Soy is also one of the main allergens in the U.S. and Canada.” DuBrey recommends clinically-tested supplements like Amberen to keep hormone levels balanced and help reduce hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and other menopause symptoms.
2. Drink red wine daily. It’s true that drinking a glass of red wine with dinner can help protect your heart, but alcohol of any type, and especially red wine, is a major menopausal trigger, says DuBrey. “Women over 50 should decrease their alcohol intake, if not eliminate it completely. Hot flashes and night sweats may be more intense if alcohol is consumed before bedtime, and while alcohol is a depressant and can lull you to sleep, it can prevent your body from getting the proper rest it requires.”
3. Fast for fat loss. While intermittent or juice fasting can be effective for short-term weight loss, DuBrey doesn’t recommend it for women over 50, who often find it more difficult to decrease fat storage around the belly, butt, and hips. “Fasting can push the body into starvation mode if used more frequently or done longer than recommended. This can cause the body to hold onto fat to save energy reserves until food becomes more readily available.”
4. Increase workout intensity. High-intensity interval-training (HIIT) is a recipe for injury for women experiencing common menopause symptoms of fatigue, joint aches, and lack of sleep, according to DuBrey. “There’s also an increased risk of both cardiac disease and osteoporosis as women age.” Instead of performing HIIT workouts, DuBrey recommends that women over 50 focus on building lean muscle by mixing up cardio with lightweight training.
5. Load up on low-fat foods. Healthy fats are important as we age. “Avocados, nuts, fish, and coconut oil can improve your health. Some of these fats help increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels and improve the overall ratio of good to bad if the bad cholesterol (LDL) is higher than the recommended range,” says DuBrey. “After 50, our chance of cardiac disease increases and this will help prevent cardiac problems. Good fats also decrease the risk of diabetes and improves glucose levels in diabetics. Calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy fats, can be found in full-fat yogurts and cheeses, which is important as our estrogen levels decline and our bone density decreases.” Stay away from processed low-fat foods, DuBrey cautions. Many are loaded with excess fillers and sugar.
The ultimate goal for women over 50 should be to balance their hormones, says DuBrey. Do this by eating right, staying active, knowing the risks that come with declining estrogen levels (especially the increased risk of injury during high-intensity workouts), and take supplements that stimulate the body to begin producing estrogen naturally.
The bottom line? Avoid the hype and choose tried-and-tested over trendy to look and feel your best after menopause.