Avoiding ‘MenoBulge’ - How to combat Menopause Weight Gain?
Is abdominal weight gain during menopause avoidable?
Most of us are familiar with the word menopause, hormonal changes, stopping of menstrual cycle etc. but perimenopause is lesser known. Most of us are unaware of when does it start, how to deal with all the unusual physical and mental roller coaster that comes with it. One of the most common concerns for women during perimenopause is abdominal weight gain. Studies have shown that up to 80% of women gain weight around the abdomen than on other parts of the body during menopause which is not only a cosmetic concern, it can also pose serious health risks, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Let’s dive deeper to learn more and make right choices.
What is perimenopause when does it start and how long does it last?
Perimenopause is a period where the body begins the transition to menopause, it can start in mid -30s and may last for an average of four years, but it can also extend for more than a decade. It is associated with a loss of estrogen and may include symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, change in the duration of menstrual cycle, disrupted sleep, including weight gain, especially around the abdomen.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is the end of menstruation, occurring after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
Why do we gain weight around the mid-section during menopause?
Various factors play a snow ball effect on the fat deposition around the mid-section. As we age metabolism slows down, which means we burn lesser calories at rest which is again due to age related muscle loss. Complex hormonal changes further add to the problem. Testosterone is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands in small amounts throughout a woman’s lifetime but when estrogen levels drop in menopause, the amount of available testosterone increases, which can trigger a redistribution of body fat, often causing accumulation in the abdominal region. Drop in estrogen leads to decrease in leptin (appetite suppressant) and, when sleeping pattern is disrupted it increases ghrelin (hunger hormone) resulting in retention of excess weight.
Is the rate of abdominal weight gain different during perimenopause and menopause?
Abdominal weight gain during perimenopause and menopause can be similar, but there are some key differences. During perimenopause, belly fat gain may be more gradual. After menopause, belly fat gain may accelerate as estrogen levels are very low, and the risk of belly fat gain remains high if one tends to follow the same diet as before.
The muscle mass lost from reduced hormone production is often replaced by fatty tissue deposit, genetics also play a role.
How abdominal fat impacts your overall health?
The hormonal changes that occur during menopause may increase cardiovascular risk in the form of higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Abdominal weight gain also poses the risk of type 2 diabetes, Indians are at higher risk due to genetic pre-disposition. Extra weight also raises your risk of some kinds of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancers.
How to avoid abdominal weight gain during menopause?
Making the right lifestyle changes at the right time can help you prevent abdominal weight gain during menopause. Diet, physical activity, sleep routine, and stress management all play a role.
- Diet: Choose more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, especially those that are less processed and contain more fiber. Include more protein from legumes, nuts, soy, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Limit red meat and opt for fish and seafood. Healthy fats from flax seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils are good choices. Cut down on added sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee and tea. Quit smoking and cut down on alcohol and savory foods. Iron- and calcium-rich foods can relieve some menopausal symptoms, such as mood changes and hot flashes.
- Physical activity: Increase your physical activity by including aerobic exercise and strength training. This will help you lose extra pounds and stay at a healthy weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories better, which makes it easier to control your weight. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and gardening.
- Sleep routine: Get enough sleep. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Stress management: Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as spending time with loved ones, meditating, listening to music, reading books, or joining communities of your interest. Talking to your friends and family can also help you manage stress better.
Making these lifestyle changes can help you transition through menopause more easily and avoid any major health risks.
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