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Weight Gain during Menopause
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Weight Gain during Menopause

Did You Know

Up to 64% of American adults are considered either overweight or obese.

As women approach menopause they experience many symptoms, including menopausal weight gain. While it is one of the more frustrating symptoms of menopause, it is also one of the most common.

In fact, up to 90% of menopausal women will experience weight gain to some degree. Although weight gain is a natural and common aspect of getting older, there are ways to reduce it. By better understanding why it occurs during menopause, women can work to prevent menopausal weight gain. Continue reading to learn more about weight gain, its causes, and treatment options.

About Weight Gain during Menopause

Weight gain takes place when body mass increases, whether as a result of fat deposits, additional muscle tissue, or excess fluid. However, weight gain associated with menopause typically increases fat around the abdomen.

On average, women gain between 12 and 15 pounds between the ages of 45 and 55, when menopause typically occurs. This extra weight generally does not evenly distribute itself throughout a woman's body, but instead accumulates around the abdomen. Read below to learn the common symptoms associated with weight gain during menopause.

Symptoms of weight gain

Weight Gain Symptoms

Women generally know when they have gained weight and do not need to learn how to identify this menopause symptom. Some of the indicators, however, are unique to weight gain associated with menopause. At the right is a list of symptoms of weight gain during menopause.

Risks of weight gain

Weight gain during menopause entails more than just aesthetic concerns. Several diseases and other conditions can develop 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
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Breast cancer
  • High cholesterol
  • Kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insulin resistance (increasing diabetes risk)
  • More severe menopause symptoms

Click on the following link to learn more about weight gain, or continue reading below to learn what causes weight gain during menopause.

What Every Woman Should Know about Menopausal Weight Gain

Weight gain is often reported as a symptom of menopause and, if it is not dealt with, can have serious effects on health. The causes are numerous and so it is important to be aware of possible personal triggers. This article is a guide to menopausal weight gain.

Weight Gain in Middle-aged Women

Weight gain in middle-aged women is a common trend, but it does not mean a woman should simply resign herself to this fate. Excess weight can cause health problems, so it should be avoided. This article explains why middle-aged women are more likely to gain weight and the health problems this can pose.

Causes of Weight Gain during Menopause

As the years progress, metabolism slows, setting the physiological stage for weight gain. Although age itself can lead to weight gain, women approaching menopause have particular cause for concern. As a woman's hormone levels fluctuate prior to menopause in preparation for the end of menstruation, they are likely to experience weight gain.

Hormonal Causes of Weight Gain

Menopause Munchies

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 during midlife compared to women in their 20's and 30's.

Hormones have complex functions in the 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 draw from other sources of estrogen. Fat cells can produce estrogen, so her body works harder to convert 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 can result from a decrease in 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.

Weight Gain Hormones
Testosterone 

The amount of this hormone increases at the onset of menopause. It's responsible for redistributing weight to the midsection instead of to the hips.


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:


  • Stress
  • Reduced physical activity
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Medication use
  • 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.

Does Smoking Cause Weight Gain?

The link between smoking and weight gain is hazy, and there is often contradictory advice, meaning people are divided in opinion. This article examines the evidence available in order to determine what the link between smoking and weight gain really is, and whether smoking is the cause of piling on the pounds.

Can Coffee Make You Gain Weight?

Drinking excessive amounts of fat-loaded coffee is directly linked to weight gain. Many of the popular coffee drinks in America are packed with calories, fat, and sugar. It is important to avoid or moderate these drinks. The general recommendation is one to two cups of brewed coffee per day.

Weight Gain during Menopause Treatments

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. The tried and true way to cope with weight gain is to exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet, practicing moderation.

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, so look for herbal supplements that bring a natural balance to hormonal levels, as this will go a long way toward curbing weight gain at the source.

Weight gain treatments

Finally, if a woman is still experiencing weight gain, there are different prescription medications and surgeries she can explore, such as diet pills or bariatric procedures. This final option comes with the most risk and side effects and should be considered a last resort. 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.

Dancing to Lose Weight

With obesity becoming a growing problem in the Western world, there are many people who want to lose weight, but don't know where to start. Exercise can sound like a chore, but dancing is a fun way to get moving and lose weight. This article gives information about the different styles available.

A 3-week Plan to Lose Weight during Postmenopause

Excess weight is a common complaint of many postmenopausal women, and it is often very difficult to shift. By following this 3-week plan that has been designed with the specific needs of postmenopause in mind, you should get a kick-start in the right weight loss direction.

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
  • National Institutes of Health. (2013). Weight gain - unintentional. Retrieved April 29, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003084.htm
  • Study. Obesity (Silver Spring), 18(3), 604-610. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.251

General articles

Updated on Apr 18, 2016
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.
Updated on Mar 07, 2016
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.
Updated on Feb 17, 2016
Weight Gain and Metabolism during Menopause
Weight gain tends to increase and metabolism slow as a woman approaches menopause, and many people can find this distressing. This article gives more information about why weight gain is such a common symptom of menopause and what risks are involved if it is left untreated.
Updated on Oct 21, 2015
Winter Weight Gain: The Facts
Winter weight gain is something that is often spoken about, but not many people can separate the facts from the myths. This article discusses some of the truths surrounding this phenomenon, helping you distinguish between the fact and the fiction and implement healthy lifestyle changes.
Updated on Aug 10, 2015
3 Important Tips to Avoid Weight Gain during Menopause
With age comes menopause and bodily changes, but you don't have to sit back and suffer. Take control of your health and kick those calories where it hurts. Exert more than you intake, stock your kitchen with the healthiest options, give yourself plenty of rest each day, and say goodbye to the unwanted weight.