For perimenopausal and menopausal women, coffee may worsen some symptoms of the change, but there are also health benefits associated with our favorite morning elixir. So what’s a gal over 45 to do?
First, it helps simply to know the benefits and risks so you can determine if it’s time to break your coffee habit.
Health benefits of coffee
According to the National Center for Health Research, coffee can do a whole lot more than simply jump-start your morning. It may decrease the risk of heart disease, reduce the chances of developing colorectal and uterine cancer, cirrhosis (liver disease), skin cancer (both the less-dangerous basal cell carcinoma and the most dangerous form, malignant melanoma), Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. Quaffing coffee may help reduce the risk suicide and slow cognitive decline. And WebMD adds Type 2 Diabetes to the list of things coffee may help you avoid, as well as special protections against stroke for women, even among those with high blood pressure.
However. (Isn’t there always a “however”?)
During menopause, caffeine may intensify some of the symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes, headaches, irregular heart beat, difficulty sleeping—while not necessarily dangerous to health, these things are uncomfortable enough without adding to the problem. And caffeine may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium, which can be a health risk for women suffering from or at risk of osteoporosis, says 34 Menopause Symptoms.
Next steps—kick or keep the coffee habit?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if the benefits of coffee outweigh the risks. However, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. Targeting the right amount of coffee per day might allow you to enjoy the health and happiness benefits without an unacceptable increase in detriments.
Track it: One way of making a determination might be to track symptoms alongside caffeine consumption. How many cups did you have today, and how severe were the hot flashes (be sure to list all sources of caffeine, including teas and soft drinks!), compared to a day when you drank more or less? It may take time to establish patterns, so track for a couple of weeks at one consumption level before cutting down or increasing.
Trim it: Consider cutting down or limiting your intake to before noon. Women’s Health in the UK says the issues associated with caffeine can be worse if caffeine is ingested all day long. While many of the health benefits above increase with coffee intake, the uptick is often negligible, so balance high consumption with increased menopausal symptoms.
Try something else: If you find that caffeine simply makes you too uncomfortable, cut it out and substitute non-caffeinated herbal teas or water with lemon. Many of the benefits of coffee can also be found in daily exercise, a healthy diet containing lots of fruits and veggies, cutting out smoking, and developing good sleep habits.