Menopause and Weight Gain

Weight gain during menopause continues to be a challenge to women.  About 30% of women aged 50-59 are not just overweight, but obese.  This weight gain increases one’s risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.    Just when we are getting used to the other symptoms often associated with menopause (hot flashes, insomnia, etc), we now have to worry about other serious chronic diseases!   It’s hard not to say, “aging is not for sissies”.

So why does menopause add those unwanted inches?  Scientists and physicians indicate that it is probably due to a number of factors related to both menopause and aging.

In animal studies, estrogen appears to help regulate body weight.  With lower estrogen levels, lab animals tend to eat more and be less physically active.  Reduced estrogen may also lower metabolic rate (rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy).  It is possible that the same thing happens to women when their estrogen level drops at menopause.  There is some evidence that estrogen hormone therapy may increase one’s resting metabolic rate, slowing weight gain.

Other factors for this weight gain are related to aging.  As we age, we exercise less.  This leads to increased loss of muscle mass, which decreases our resting metabolism even more!  This makes it easier to gain weight.   As we age, our aerobic capacity also declines (the rate we use up energy during exercise). To compensate for this, we may need to increase the amount of time we exercise in order to achieve the same weight loss we experienced while exercising when when we were younger.

To learn more how exercise can help control menopausal weight gain and some tips for ensuring success, click here.