Weight Gain During Menopause
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Did You Know?
Up to 64% of American adults are considered either overweight or obese.
As women approach menopause they endure many symptoms, but one that proves the most difficult for many women to accept is menopausal weight gain. Not only can a few extra pounds (or maybe more) ravage a woman's self-esteem and self-image, but weight gain can usher in a host of health concerns that put a woman at risk of developing life-threatening conditions.
About 90% of menopausal women experience some amount of weight gain. Although weight gain is a natural and common aspect of getting older, there are ways to reduce it. Women who are educated about this symptom are more likely to find ways around the typical spare-tire waist or extra inches here and there. Continue reading to learn more about weight gain, its causes, and treatment options.
About Weight Gain
Weight gain takes place when an individual increases her body mass, whether as a result of fat deposits, additional muscle tissue, or excess fluid. However, weight gain associated with menopause typically involves increased amounts of fat around the abdomen.
On average, women gain between 12 and 15 pounds between the ages of 45 and 55, the stage in life when menopause typically occurs. This extra weight generally does not evenly distribute itself throughout a woman's body. The weight tends instead to accumulate around the abdomen, and women often notice the shape of their bodies slowly lose their hour-glass figure and begin to take on a rounded shape. Read below to learn the common symptoms associated with weight gain during menopause.
Symptoms of Weight Gain
Women generally know when they have gained weight and don't need to learn how to identify this menopausal symptom. Some of the indicators, however, are unique to weight gain associated with menopause. At the right there is a list of symptoms of weight gain during menopause.
Risks of Weight Gain
Weight gain during menopause entails more than just aesthetic concerns. Although no one enjoys looking in the mirror and seeing a softer, plumper body looking back, weight gain can lead to very serious health conditions that transcend visual displeasure. Several diseases and other conditions can spawn as a result of a body burdened with excess pounds. Here is a list of conditions weight gain can lead to:
Weight Gain and Breast Cancer
Women who gain in excess of 20 pounds after menopause increase their breast cancer risk by nearly 20%, but those who lose 20 pounds after menopause reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 23%.
Heart disease, stroke
High blood pressure
Insulin resistance (increasing diabetes risks)
More severe menopausal symptoms
Click on the following link to learn more about weight gain, or continue reading below to learn what causes weight gain during menopause.
Rapid weight gain is a very difficult symptom of menopause, as the aging process makes it harder to lose weight as women get older anyway. It can also be very upsetting for women who pursue a healthy lifestyle to suddenly deal with what seems like unwarranted or random weight gain.
For those who want to add bulk to their frame, it may be tempting to gain weight quickly by eating greasy foods. Instead, it is safer and healthier to put on one pound per week with a combined regimen of strength training and purposeful diet.
Causes of Weight Gain
As years progress the metabolism slows, setting the physiological stage for weight gain. Although age itself can lead to plumped midsections, women approaching menopause have particular cause for concern. As a woman's hormones fluctuate prior to menopause and preparing for a permanently reduced hormonal level, they are likely to experience weight gain.
Hormonal Causes of Weight Gain
A drop in estrogen and progesterone can increase a woman's appetite and cause her to eat up to 67% more, according to one study. An increase in appetite coupled with a slower metabolism with the onset of menopause can cause weight gain in women. This could, perhaps, account for the 12% jump in the number of women who are overweight in midlife compared to women in their 20's and 30's.
A woman's hormones have complex functions in her body, including weight control. Here's a list of the different hormones that can affect weight gain and how:
Estrogen. As a woman's ovaries produce less estrogen, her body attempts to find the hormone in places other than the ovaries. Fat cells can produce estrogen, so her body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unfortunately, fat cells don't burn calories the way muscle cells do, which causes weight gain.
Progesterone. Water retention is often linked to menopause because water weight and bloating decreases progesterone levels. Though this doesn't actually result in weight gain, clothes can feel a bit tighter and a woman may feel as though she's heavier.
Androgen. The amount of this hormone increases at the onset of menopause. It's responsible for sending new weight to the mid-section instead of to the hips, which many women are accustomed to. Some women even have a nickname for the menopause years based on the mid-section weight gain: "the middle-age spread".
Testosterone. Testosterone helps a woman's body create lean muscle mass out of the calories consumed. Muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do, increasing metabolic rate. As testosterone levels drop, fewer calories are transformed into lean muscle mass, thus a woman's metabolism winds down.
Insulin Resistance. Insulin resistance can occur during the menopausal years. This is when a woman's body mistakenly turns every calorie taken in into fat. Over time, processed and refined foods may make a woman's body resistant to insulin produced in the blood stream.
Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain
Women with an underactive thyroid often experience weight gain because their metabolic rate slows down as a result of the condition. In some cases, hyperthyroidism can also cause weight gain, but that is rare. Thyroid hormones essentially regulate calorie consumption in the body. With an underactive thyroid, fewer calories are burned and converted into energy. Instead they are stored in the body.
Other Causes of Weight Gain
Although hormones are largely responsible for weight gain during menopause, there are other factors that can play a role as well. They are separated into two categories: age and lifestyle factors.
Age and Weight Gain
Beginning at about age 30, an individual's physical abilities begin to decrease and continue deteriorating until about age 60 or 70. The body's abilities then level off and decline at a slower rate. The rate of decline depends largely on an individual's physical activity and particular lifestyle. This decreasing physical ability affects weight because a person becomes less able to engage in physical activities that help to maintain a stable weight by burning calories. To compound the potential for weight gain with age, the metabolic rate begins to slow after age 30, which also leads to weight gain.
Lifestyle and Weight Gain
Even though physical changes are an unavoidable part of getting older that leads to weight gain, a woman's lifestyle is also a hugely important variable that can either tip the scale in favor of extra pounds or fend off weight gain. Below are some lifestyle factors that can lead to weight gain:
Reduced physical activity
Change in eating habit
Drinking excess amounts of alcohol
Click on the following link to learn more about the causes of weight gain during menopause, or continue reading below to find out some of the best treatment options for weight gain associated with menopause.
Gallstones do not usually present external symptoms, and generally speaking, they are unlikely to endanger to your health. However, stones can sometimes be indicative of greater health concerns: gallstones develop primarily in overweight individuals. Those with high-cholesterol levels are more susceptible to gallstones than others.
Weight gain does not have to be an inevitable part of aging and menopause. Instead, it is possible to identify common reasons for weight gain during this period, so that the issue can be addressed. Find information on these five reasons, which include lack of sleep, increased stress and bad eating habits. Examples of additional reasons for weight gain are also given.
Treatments for Weight Gain
When looking for treatments for weight gain, it's important to begin with methods that are the least obtrusive, with the least likelihood of side effects, and progress from there.
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.
This means that lifestyle changes are the best place to begin. For example, obviously the tried and true way to cope with weight gain is to get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet high in nutrients but not overboard in portion.
Typically, combining lifestyle changes and alternative medicines will produce the best results. When seeking out alternative medicines, keep in mind that because weight gain during menopause is associated with hormonal imbalance, look for herbal supplements that bring a natural balance to hormonal levels, for this will go a long way to grappling with weight gain at the core of the issue.
Finally, if a woman is still experiencing weight gain, there are different prescription medications and surgeries that can be explored, such as diet pills or liposuction. This final option comes with the most risk and side effects and should be considered a last result. A healthcare professional should be consulted before undergoing one of these options.
Click on the following link to learn all the specifics about treatments for weight gain during menopause, which begin with lifestyle changes, move onto alternative medicines, and finally, if those options don't seem to help, medications and surgery.
Many women gain weight during menopause, and this can be for a number of different reasons. Although it can be hard, it is not impossible to shift, and following these tips should get you on track to a lower weight and a healthier lifestyle during menopause.
Vitamin deficiencies can wreak havoc with the body and health. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about how vitamin deficiencies cause obesity or weight gain. Check out this article for a look at the real links between the two and see whether a lack of certain vitamins is indeed bad for your waistline.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. “The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause”. November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- BMJ Group. “Menopause: What is it?” Patient Leaflet. 2007
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