Menopause brings a host of unwelcome changes for most women, but many of them (like hot flashes or mood swings) are at least transitory. Perhaps the most annoying change is the one that sticks around – your midsection, that is. Why does menopause tend to trigger weight gain, particularly around the midsection, and what can you do about it?
If you recall the hormonal changes that trigger menopause, this phenomenon makes a lot more sense. Around age 50 or so, the ovaries stop producing estrogen. Thrown off kilter by this change, your body begins to search for estrogen elsewhere, such as in fat cells. Since estrogen is stored in fat cells, a estrogen preservation campaign is launched, and the end result is the stubborn storage of additional fat. Typically this happens around the midsection.
While many women find their changed appearance bothersome, additional weight around the midsection carries health risks as well. Those who carry more weight in the abdomen face increased odds of certain problems, such as cardiovascular disease.
Now that you understand the basic mechanism behind weight gain after menopause… What can you do about it?
Lift weights. As your metabolism slows, adding muscle mass back to your frame can help to boost it. Plus, women tend to lose bone density after age 50, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Lifting weights can counter some of those effects by protecting bone density. Of course, cardiovascular exercise is still important too. Alternate cardio with weight training and you’ll reap rewards from both types of exercise.
Get more sleep. Sleep disruption triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that triggers storage of belly fat. Insomnia will only compound your problems at this time of life, so take the proper steps to get more sleep.
Discuss these issues with your doctor. Your primary care physician can offer more advice on managing your menopause comfortably and healthfully. And, if you need help putting together an exercise regimen or weight loss plan, you should come see us for a consultation.