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Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain

December 30,2021
When you enter your fourth decade, you may notice certain symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain. Women weight gain during the menopause transition seems inevitable because there are many factors at play here, including hormones, ageing, genetics, and lifestyle. This article explores what causes weight gain around menopause and how it can be prevented.
 

Women and Their Reproductive Life Cycle

Women go through hormonal changes that may produce symptoms throughout their life, including weight gain. A woman goes through four periods of hormonal changes during her life:

  1. Premenopause
    During premenopause, a woman is fertile. This stage begins at puberty with the first menstrual period and ends with the last. It lasts for approximately 30-40 years.

  2. Perimenopause
    During perimenopause, the progesterone levels decline, and the estrogen levels go erratic. Perimenopause starts in the mid-30s and early 50s, but the actual transition typically occurs in the 40s and lasts for 4–11 years. Symptoms of perimenopause include sleep disturbances, headaches, mood swings, hot flashes, depression, weight gain, and anxiety.

  3. Menopause
    Officially menopause happens when a woman hasn't had a period for 12 months. The average age of menopause is 51 years - up until then, the woman is considered perimenopausal.

  4. Postmenopause
    The postmenopause stage begins right after a woman has gone 12 months without having a period.

Causes of Menopause Weight Gain

There are several factors that contribute to weight gain around menopause, including:

  1. Decrease in estrogen levels
    Estrogen is a primary sex hormone, and it plays an important role in regulating the menstrual cycle, regulating cholesterol level, physical sex characteristics, and maintaining bone health. During menopause, there is a significant drop in the level of estrogen. The low estrogen level causes an increase in abdominal fat and total body fat.

  2. Age and lifestyle 
    Ageing and lifestyle are the main culprits behind weight gain around menopause. Ageing slows the metabolism. With age, the lean body mass also decreases, and the body fat accumulates. If you have to reduce this body fat, you need to be physically active. But women become less active as they age, thus decreasing their muscle mass and increasing their weight and fat mass.

  3. Sleep Problems
    Menopausal women experience night sweats, hot flashes, and increased anxiety that can keep them up at night. Research says that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. When you sleep poorly, you are more likely to be less physically active the next day. Our body is known to use fat as we sleep. When you sleep poorly, your body isn't able to use the fat, thus leading to weight gain.

Risks of Menopause Weight Gain

Menopausal women are three times more likely to be obese or have metabolic syndrome than non-menopausal women. Below are some of the health risks associated with weight gain in women around menopause:

  1. Diabetes
    A study reported that postmenopausal women who are overweight/obese are four times more likely to develop diabetes than metabolically active, normal weight postmenopausal women. Diabetes increases your chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

  2. High Blood Pressure
    Without the protective effects of estrogen, women are at risk of developing high blood pressure. The blood vessels narrow, preventing the blood from flowing freely. The bigger a woman's waist, the greater are her chances of high blood pressure.

  3. Heart Disease
    The risk of cardiovascular disease increases after menopause. This is because of the lack of estrogen, which plays a role in protecting the heart. If you add obesity to the already existing risk, it's fatal for a woman's heart health.

HRT can help reduce the tendency to gain abdominal fat & control the menopausal symptoms. Consult MedsNow to find out if you are a candidate for HRT.

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How to Prevent Weight Gain Around Menopause

Menopause weight gain is common, but it can be prevented. Here are a few things you can do to keep your weight under control.

  • Eat smaller portions
    Once over the age of 40, our BMR (basal metobolic rate) slows down. This means we need to eat smaller portions. However, make sure the portions are of nutritious food.

  • Make healthy food choices
    Sugar and processed foods increase abdominal fat. It's best to avoid them as much as you can. Ease up on alcohol intake too.  

  • Keep yourself active
    Studies show that exercise burns fat. The more you exercise, the more your muscles and bones get stronger. Around menopause, women lose muscle mass. Resistance training and weight lifting increase muscles and burn fat.

  • Address Stress
    Cortisol, the stress hormone, can cause abdominal fat deposition. Find out ways to reduce stress. You may want to talk to your family, friends, colleagues or a healthcare professional about ways to reduce stress.

  • Eat nutrient-rich foods
    Weight loss can happen when you consume fewer calories than you use up. Making changes in your diet is crucial for losing weight. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and legumes.

  • Make sleep a priority
    Getting sufficient high-quality sleep is important for a healthy weight and overall health. Poor sleep causes weight gain.

  • Talk to your doctor
    Talk to your doctor about medications to control your menopause symptoms. Your doctor will investigate the reason for your weight gain and prescribe medicines accordingly. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is commonly prescribed to control menopause symptoms.

However, a lot of women complain that HRT causes weight gain. But there is no scientific evidence that suggests HRT causes weight gain. In fact, HRT may help prevent the building up of abdominal fat, improve sleep and other menopause symptoms.

FAQs

What are the causes of weight gain during menopause?
Weight gain around menopause is due to a variety of reasons, including:
  • Ageing: As you age, your estrogen levels and muscle mass drop, thus slowing your metabolism. As a result, your body stores and distributes fat, causing weight gain.
  • Lifestyle factors: Leading a sedentary life and having poor sleep also promote weight gain.
How long does weight gain around menopause last?
How long the weight gain lasts varies from woman to woman, and a lot of it depends on your diet, muscle tone, and your activity level.
 
Some data suggest that weight gain reaches a plateau in your 50s and drops in your 60s. Other data shows that women keep gaining weight even when they are in the sixth decade of life. How much of the weight gain is due to menopause and how much is associated with ageing and other lifestyle factors isn't clear.
 
How to lose menopause weight gain?
You can lose menopause weight gain by:
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Prioritising sleep
  • Reducing stress
Does menopause change body shape?
Studies suggest that menopause plays a role in transitioning a woman's pear-shaped body to an apple-shaped body. 
 
Make menopause a time of your life to bring out the best in yourself. Exercise and eat healthier to cope with menopause symptoms better. Losing menopause weight is important as obesity is associated with health risks such as breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
 
Kickstart your menopausal weight loss journey with MedsNow Online Pharmacy UK. Consult our health experts from the comfort of your home and get treated for menopause weight gain online.