Women who have reached menopause encounter a lot of different changes as their bodies adjust to the hormone changes. Fluctuations cause mood swings, sexual changes, hot flashes and weight gain. Why does this happen?
By the time a woman reaches menopause, testosterone levels are half of what they were at puberty. Testosterone is responsible for not only sex drive but energy levels and happiness too. In addition to this, women are also experiencing a decrease in estrogen levels which causes vaginal dryness, night sweats and other side effects.
Why do women gain weight during menopause?
Weight gain is also extremely common since our hormones play such an important role in metabolism, appetite, and digestion. In fact, almost 90% of women experience weight gain and around 30% of women in their 50s are not just overweight, but obese.
How does this happen?
Estrogen decreases in order to stop ovulation and in doing so, the body finds other sources of estrogen. This means that the body converts more calories into fat in order to increase estrogen production and therefore, women experience weight gain.
A decrease in testosterone leads to a loss of muscle mass and a lower metabolism, which also results in weight gain.
Progesterone also decreases with menopause and while this doesn’t actually cause weight gain, it does cause water retention and feeling heavy.
In addition to the hormone fluctuations, insufficient exercise and poor eating habits play a part in weight gain, as do stress levels and insulin resistance.
The Risks of Weight Gain
Gaining weight isn’t pleasant – it decreases self confidence and makes us feel lousy. Yet there is more than just the superficial factor that comes with weight gain. Extra fat raises your risks for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. These risks always exist in overweight people but even more so as we age. If you’re experiencing weight gain, it’s time to do something about it.
Is there a way to combat it?
Yes! The statistics might not be in your favor but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Women going through menopause who are experiencing symptoms such as weight gain, depression, low energy and low libido might want to consider hormone therapy. Lifestyle, health and exercise are also extremely important but if your hormones are out of balance then your results aren’t going to be nearly as good. According to The North American Menopause Society, hormone therapy is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms. They claim that most healthy women can benefit from hormone therapy to relieve menopause symptoms.
Consult with your health care provider to see if this is recommended for your particular situation. It’s always important to consider risk factors, as well as age and overall health. And don’t neglect exercise and nutrition, even if you are using hormone therapy. Strength training (dumbbells, weight machines) as well as aerobics (swimming, cycling, walking, dancing) will help maintain your weight, as well as your muscle mass which is crucial if you want to improve your metabolism.
Regarding your nutrition, you might want to eat less. When you’re in your 50s you need 200 fewer calories than you do when you’re in your 30s or 40s. Limit alcohol, avoid processed foods and stay away from sugar. It’s also better to eat smaller amounts more often than large meals.
While most women fall prey to weight gain during menopause, there are ways to control it and maintain your pre-menopause weight. You can’t stop the aging process, but you can give your body the support it needs to stay as healthy and strong as possible.