Symptoms associated with menopause can start as early as four years before your last period and persist for an additional four years or longer. While many symptoms eventually subside as your body adjusts to hormonal changes, menopausal weight gain can make a permanent change in your long-term well-being.
Understanding why menopausal weight gain occurs is key to taking control and maintaining good health in this new phase of life. The menopause specialists at Ovation Wellness in Madison, Mississippi, provide the guidance and support women need to remain healthy and adjust to their changing bodies. The professional and caring staff members help you find the strategies and treatments necessary to address your symptoms and establish long-term well-being.
Effect of hormones on menopausal weight gain
Menopausal weight gain averages about five pounds for many women, with about 20% of women gaining 10 pounds or more. This can begin during the period of perimenopause, a stage during which your estrogen levels begin to change, and progesterone declines in preparation for menopause.
The age at which perimenopause occurs varies for each woman, ranging from the mid-30s to early 50s. For many women, menopausal symptoms like weight gain occur most intensely during this period.
Research suggests that normal estrogen levels help control body fat before menopause, but women may lose this protection as estrogen levels decline with menopause. The change may also contribute to increased fat storage by affecting the way your body uses sugars and starches, which can make it more difficult to lose weight.
The hormonal changes that occur with menopause can also affect the way your body gains weight. Younger women tend to gain weight around their hips and thighs. After menopause, you’re more likely to add pounds around your abdomen, similar to the way men add weight.
Other factors involved
Menopause alone isn’t necessarily the sole reason for weight gain. Instead, midlife weight gain in women often involves a combination of factors that typically occur at this stage of life. Gaining weight with menopause can also be affected by genetics, demographics, and social factors.
Research indicates that aging may also play a significant role in menopausal weight gain. As you grow older, fat levels typically increase and muscle mass decreases. With less muscle mass, your metabolism, or the rate at which your body uses calories, slows. If you continue to maintain the same diet without increasing activity levels as you age, you’re more likely to gain weight.
Other factors that may contribute to weight gain during menopause coincide with common lifestyle changes that happen around the time that most women experience menopause, which occurs at the average age of 51. With children moving away from home, a reduced workload and activity level at home, and more time for leisure activities, you may be using fewer calories during your daily routine.
More opportunities to travel, eat out, and entertain can make it more challenging to stay on track with healthy eating habits, especially since your body likely needs fewer calories than when you were younger.
The effects of menopausal weight gain
The impact of menopausal weight gain can affect more than your appearance. Being overweight at any age increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, a condition that causes almost 50% of deaths in women over age 50. This group of health conditions includes hypertension, stroke, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and valvular heart disease.
Women who are overweight have an increased risk of high cholesterol, sleep disorders, and some cancers. Obesity is also a risk factor for dementia, urinary incontinence, and musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis, all of which can affect your quality of life as you age.
Being overweight can also impact your appearance, self-esteem, physical competence, and how you interact with others. Depression and depressive symptoms are common psychosocial consequences of obesity.
How to reduce menopausal weight gain
While your risk of weight gain during menopause is higher, it doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Research indicates that women who succeed in preventing menopausal weight are those who remain active in the years leading up to and beyond menopause. Adding weight-resistance exercises and strength training to build muscle mass can also help increase your metabolism.
Changes in diet and eating habits can support the benefits of exercise. Your body needs about 200 fewer calories in your 50s than you did in your 30s and 40s. If you’re struggling to establish healthy habits, you may benefit from nutrition counseling or medical weight management to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Avoiding or minimizing weight gain during menopause can help reduce your risk of health problems associated with obesity. It can also improve your self-confidence and lead to a better quality of life during menopause and beyond.
Find out more about weight gain during menopause and what you can do to remain healthy as you age. Call our office to schedule a medical consultation today.