All about each symptom of menopause

Weight Gain FAQs

While it can be frustrating to deal with, weight gain is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Weight gain is a normal aspect not only of menopause but also of getting older, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. By better understanding how weight gain relates to menopause, women can manage this symptom. Continue reading for a list of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding weight gain.

Q: Is Weight Gain Normal during Menopause?

A: Yes. Weight gain is normal during menopause. It is perhaps the most common symptom of menopause, with about 90% of menopausal women gaining some amount of weight during this time.

Q: What Are the Symptoms of Weight Gain during Menopause?

A: The symptoms of weight gain are as follows:

  • Difficulty maintaining usual weight
  • Fat accumulation around the abdomen
  • Change in body shape (pear to apple)
  • Steady weight gain
  • Increase in body fat percentage
  • Slower metabolism
  • Increase in breast size

Q: Why Does Weight Gain during Menopause Tend to Accumulate Around the Midsection?


Did You Know?

Most women experience a 5% decrease in metabolic rate per decade.

Because metabolism slows as women approach menopause, they need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40s.

A: The reason menopausal women tend to accumulate new weight around the abdomen is because of changes in testosterone levels. This hormone regulates the distribution of weight in the body. When testosterone levels are in flux, especially relative to the levels of other hormones, the distribution of adipose tissue can change. Continue reading to learn what causes weight gain during menopause.

Q: What Causes Weight Gain during Menopause?

A: The primary cause of weight gain during menopause has to do with hormonal imbalance. Hormones play a big role in regulating body weight, so when they begin fluctuating prior to menopause and maintain consistently low levels postmenopause, weight gain is typically a side effect. Here are the hormonal causes of weight gain:

  • Estrogen. As the ovaries produce less estrogen, the body attempts to derive estrogen from other places. Fat cells can produce estrogen, so the body may convert more calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unfortunately, fat cells do not burn calories the way muscle cells do, which causes weight gain.

  • Progesterone. Water retention is often linked to menopause because water weight and bloating are caused by decreased progesterone levels. While this does not actually result in true weight gain, clothes can feel a bit tighter and a woman may feel as though she's heavier.

  • Testosterone. Testosterone levels generally increase at the onset of menopause relative to estrogen levels. It's responsible for redistributing weight to the midsection instead of to the hips.

Q: Are There Any Other Causes of Weight Gain?


Did You Know?

There is on average a 40 - 50% reduction in an individual's muscle mass between ages 30 and 70, with a simultaneous increase in body fat. This transition sets the groundwork for slower metabolism, reduced physical activities, and difficulty burning calories, thus leading to weight gain.

A: Yes. Age and lifestyle are also determining factors when it comes to weight gain. Both women and men become less fit as they pass age 30, and their bodies begin to lose muscle mass and some athletic ability. This decreasing physical ability affects weight because a person becomes less able to engage in cardiovascular exercise, which helps to maintain a stable weight by burning calories. To compound the potential for weight gain with age, metabolic rate begins to slow after age 30, which also leads to weight gain.

Lifestyle also plays an important role in weight gain. The following lifestyle factors can influence weight gain:

  • Stress
  • Reduced physical activity
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Medication side effects
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

Q: Should Women Be Concerned about Weight Gain?

A: There are some concerns that go along with weight gain. Weight gain can potentially lead to serious health risks. Here is a list of some of the health risks associated with weight gain:


Weight Gain and Breast Cancer

Women who gain in excess of 20 pounds after menopause are at an increased 20% risk of developing breast cancer, but those who lose 20 pounds after menopause reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 23%.

  • Heart disease, stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Breast cancer
  • High cholesterol
  • Kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insulin resistance (increasing diabetes risk)
  • More severe menopause symptoms

Q: What Are the Best Steps Towards Losing Weight during Menopause?

A: In order to manage weight, it is crucial to begin with regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet of moderate portions. This will go a long way toward preventing weight gain. However, while lifestyle changes can positively impact health, they do not address the core of the issue: hormonal imbalance. The absolute best way keep pounds off during menopause and prevent weight gain from taking place is to balance hormones. There are various alternative medicines that naturally bring hormone levels into balance.

Q: Can More Drastic Measures Be Taken to Treat Weight Gain?

A: There are more drastic measures available to women who are interested in treating weight gain. Some of these measures include liposuction or diet pills, but these options come with the most potential side effects and should be used only as a last resort. A healthcare provider should be consulted so that both patient can doctor can determine the best treatment plan.

Q: What Are the Best Ways to Deal with Weight Gain during Menopause?

A: Three approaches can be considered for treating weight gain during menopause: (1) lifestyle changes, (2) alternative medicines, and (3) medications and surgery. Most experts recommend that women begin with the least aggressive approach and move to the next level of treatment only if the excess weight isn't lost. Click on treatments for weight gain during menopause to discover the best route to relief.

Thyroid Problems and Weight Gain: The Link

Thyroid problems - specifically an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) - can cause weight gain. Thyroid problems typically develop over years and become apparent during menopause because of the hormone fluctuations experienced during this time. It is important to seek medical treatment, as symptoms can worsen if left untreated.

Weight Gain After a Hysterectomy

Many women complain of weight gain after a hysterectomy, or think it is an inevitable consequence of the operation. However, there is little evidence to show the link between the two, and studies have actually shown that the weight gain many women experience after a hysterectomy is down to much more controllable factors.

Sources:
  • Davis, S.R. et al. (2012). Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric, 15(5), 419-429. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2012.707385.
  • Janssen, I. et al. (2010). Testosterone and Visceral Fat in Midlife Women: The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) Fat Patterning Study. Obesity (Silver Spring), 18(3), 604-610. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.251
  • National Cancer Institute. (2012). Obesity and Cancer Risk. Retrieved May 2, 2016, from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet#q4
  • National Institutes of Health. (2013). Weight gain - unintentional. Retrieved May 2, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003084.htm