Menopause And Gaining Weight

by : Mark Kimathi

For most women over 50 you tend to find that menopause and weight gain are closely linked. Very often women put on weight at this time and while some of this may be due to lifestyle changes, that does not explain why suddenly we develop a tendency to put on weight at different parts of the body, especially the abdomen, while any weight gained when we were younger tended to be centered on the hips.

Although the process is not completely understood, strong evidence show that hormonal changes do have a part to play in this. At menopause a woman stops ovulating, her monthly menstruation periods end, and her body produces much lower levels of the female hormone estrogen which is responsible for the ovulation process.

Low estrogen in animals has been shown to cause weight gain. It almost certainly is the reason why our bodies change shape. Look at it from this point; while women of childbearing age store fat in the lower body, after the menopause they store it on the abdomen instead, like men. This obviously leads to a greater risk of heart disease as is the case with men.

At the same time, both men and women tend to find their muscle density reducing while increasing the amount of body fat as they grow older, and the metabolism slows down. This then means that if you do not adjust your eating habits you will probably find that your weight increases. You should know that a person of 60 year does not need as many calories as a person of 40 years.

To manage and control menopausal symptoms, hormone therapy with estrogen is sometimes prescribed. Many women will be surprised to hear that studies have shown that this kind of hormone therapy does not result to weight gain. However some women do experience bloating and water retention in the early stages of hormonal therapy but this is usually temporary and they do not gained any fat. Hormone therapy to counter menopause weight gain can reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the changes in storage of body fat around the abdomen and lowering cholesterol. Unfortunately, hormone therapy has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in some studies.

If you find yourself in a position where you are gaining weight in menopause, there are several things you can do that may help.

- Avoiding sugar and eat a healthy low fat diet with plenty of fiber.

- Engage yourself in routine exercise. Usually as people get older their physical activity levels tend to naturally drop. For example work often becomes less physically demanding, you probably be sat most of the time. There are no kids to run around after, we take less active holidays and do things more slowly. So taking out a dedicated 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day will help to balance out the effect of this sedentary lifestyle.

- Maintain your muscle strength and mass using strength training. Use weights for arm muscles and walking or cycling for legs.

- Accept the changes to the shape of your body if they are not life threatening. If for example you are not overweight, but simply have a thicker waist and slimmer legs, that is fine.

If the menopause symptoms are very severe, consult with your doctor. And before starting any exercise program if you have any medical conditions or your fitness levels are low also check with your doctor.