Preventing middle age spread after menopause 

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Preventing middle age spread after menopause 

As women approach the “change” of life, their concerns may be focused on hot flashes and night sweats, but there can be another unwelcomed change - weight gain. 

Many women will experience weight gain during or soon after menopause is complete. Women who gain weight during this phase of life may notice a subtle yet noticeable snugness of how their clothes are fitting.  Or they may discover their slight belly pooch has suddenly turned into a full-blown belly muffin top.  Over a two year period it is not uncommon for a woman to find the scales tipping in the wrong direction of gaining anywhere from 10 or more pounds – and those extra pounds are often quite stubborn not wanting to budge.

Why do some women gain excess weight during menopause?  There is no definitive blanket answer as to why.   All women are unique but there are some reasons that likely are major contributors to the weight gain:

·      Hormonal changes

Any woman in the throes of menopause is well aware that her hormones have gone haywire.  One hormone in particular - estrogen - is dropping fast.  As estrogen decreases, this causes women to have a greater propensity to gain weight in the abdominal area.  Before menopause, many women carry any excess weight on their hips, thighs and buttocks.  Now any additional pounds go straight to her tummy giving a woman a more rounded look than what she had when she was younger.

·      Diminished muscle mass

Muscle mass reductions can begin as early as age 35 in both women and men.  Loss of muscle mass reduces the rate at which a woman’s body uses calories making it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.  This condition known as sarcopenia can be prevented by having a regular, consistent exercise routine that incorporates lifting weights and eating sufficient sources of protein (between 25-30 grams) at each meal.

·      Genetics

Our genes certainly play a role in menopausal weight gain.  A woman’s close relatives – her mother, grandmothers, sisters – can be a clue as to how much weight she may gain or not during menopause.

·      Unhealthy lifestyle habits

Depending on how well a woman takes care of herself years before menopause decides to arrive, may determine if she will gain weight.  If a woman has had poor eating and sleep habits and little to no exercise, she may find herself gaining unwanted pounds. 

·      Aging

One other reason for menopausal weight gain is the simple fact a woman is getting older.  Aging means weight gained will be harder to lose because the rate of how many calories are burned known as metabolic rate has slowed down.   Also as people age, they tend to slow down and become less active.

How to prevent menopausal weight gain

Menopausal weight gain does not have to be inevitable.  But it will take some work by any woman to recognize and do what it takes to combat weight gain and fat redistribution.  Doing so can help her to lead a long heathy life with a reduced likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. 

Preventative steps to take include:

·      Be physically active for a minimum of 150 minutes weekly or 30 minutes 5 days a week.  Engaging in aerobic exercise and resistance training help immensely in maintaining a healthy body weight, boosting metabolism, building strong bones and muscle mass, and reducing body fat. 

·      Make simple yet very effective dietary changes.  Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  Be aware that once a woman goes through menopause, she is at the same risk as a man for developing heart disease.  Reducing foods high in unhealthy saturated fats and replacing them more with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is a wise choice.  Postmenopausal women are also at a greater risk for the brittle bone disease of osteoporosis.  Consuming 1200 milligrams of calcium a day after the age of 50 is recommended – choose low-fat dairy foods and plant-based sources of this mineral Cut way back on sugary carbohydrates such as soft drinks or cookies, cakes, pastries, white rice, white pasta and white bread. 

·      Keep your sweet tooth habit in check.  Did you know that just an extra 100 calories a day can add up to 10 extra pounds of body weight in one year?  It’s easy not to notice the ‘extras’ you may be eating over the course of a day – second helpings, the nibbles, the snacks or leftovers you take several bites of.  And many of those calories are coming from sugary foods. Added sugars account for nearly 300 calories a day in the average American diet. About half of these calories come from sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, flavored waters, and sweetened coffee or tea.  Other foods that contribute to excess dietary sugar include cookies, pies, cakes, doughnuts, ice cream and candy.  Next time you find yourself about to indulge, ask yourself, am I really hungry or maybe am I bored or having a bad day.  Take a time out, get busy doing something else and avoid buying tempting, sugary foods.

·      Women who smoke need to quit smoking.  Besides having no health-redeeming qualities whatsoever, women who smoke will usually accumulate more body fat, particularly in the abdominal region, than women who don’t smoke. 

·      Rule out any thyroid problems.  Hypothyroidism often begins in women at midlife contributing to weight gain.  If a woman is rapidly gaining weight, she should get a thorough checkup to rule this out.