Weight gain is one of the most obvious menopause symptoms, noticeable both to the woman and to her friends and family. Most women are curious to learn more about this symptom in order to understand why and when the weight gain starts. Learning about menopausal weight gain will provide women with the tools they need to reduce the extra pounds. Here is a list of the most commonly asked questions about weight gain during menopause.
FAQ: Do all women gain weight during menopause?
A: Not all menopausal women will gain weight, but nearly 90% will add excess pounds in the years of transitioning from perimenopause to post-menopause.
FAQ: What symptoms do women have when they gain menopausal weight?
A: The following are symptoms of weight gain during menopause:
- Excess fat accumulates in the abdomen;
- Body shape becomes rounder;
- Weight steadily increases;
- Body fat percentage increases;
- Metabolism slows down;
- Harder to maintain current weight;
- Breast size increases;
FAQ: Why do most women gain weight in their abdomen during menopause?
A: Hormone changes have a direct role in abdominal weight gain during menopause. The hormone androgen increases when menopause starts. Normally, a woman’s body will store excess fat in the hips, but excess androgen causes women to store fat in the mid-section.
FAQ: What causes menopausal weight gain?
A: The primary reason women gain weight during menopause is because of hormone fluctuations. Hormones help the body regulate metabolism and appetite throughout a person’s life. During menopause, hormones fluctuate to prepare the body for consistently decreased hormone levels after menopause is over. Weight gain is one side effect of these hormone fluctuations.
FAQ: Which hormones affect weight gain during menopause
Estrogen. A woman produces less estrogen in her ovaries during menopause, so the body tries to replace it with estrogen from other sources. Fat cells can produce estrogen, so the female body will convert extra calories into fat in order to produce more estrogen. These extra fat cells do not burn fat like muscle cells do when the body is at rest, so the woman gains more weight.
Progesterone. This hormone causes a woman to retain excess fluid. Although this weight is not permanent, women will feel bloated and her clothes will fit tighter.
Androgen. Unlike other hormones that decrease during menopause, androgen increases. This hormone tells the body to send extra fat to the abdomen rather than the hips, where most women store extra fat. This hormone is responsible for the “middle-age spread” that most women experience in their 40s and 50s.
Testosterone. This hormone signals the body to create lean muscle mass with extra calories instead of storing them as fat. When testosterone levels drop, the woman will gain fat cells instead of muscle. Since fat does not burn calories at rest like muscle does, the woman’s metabolic rate will soon decrease.
Insulin Resistance. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and helps glucose travel throughout the body to provide energy. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, the body converts extra calories into fat. When a woman eats too much refined or processed foods, the body becomes resistant to insulin in the body.
FAQ: Are hormones the only reason women gain weight during menopause?
A: No, a woman's lifestyle and age also affect weight gain after 40. Both men and women tend to decrease their physical activity in their 30s, and their bodies lose the ability to endure strenuous physical activity. Lowered activity along with lowered ability means fewer calories burned. A person's metabolism naturally decreases at age 30, which can also contribute to gain weight.
A person's lifestyle can also contribute to weight gain. The following lifestyle factors can cause a person to gain weight:
- Reduced exercise and physical activity;
- Quitting smoking;
- Changes in medications;
- Dietary changes;
- Drinking alcohol;
FAQ: Is weight gain a cause for concern?
A: Yes, gaining weight can increase a person's risk for certain medical conditions. Some conditions and diseases that can be associated with excess weight include:
- Heart disease;
- Kidney disease;
- High blood pressure;
- High cholesterol;
- Breast cancer;
- Sleep apnea;
- Insulin resistance;
- Type 2 diabetes;
- More severe menopausal symptoms;
FAQ: What are the best ways to avoid menopausal weight gain or lose weight?
A: Some women can avoid weight gain by exercising regularly, eating healthy meals and practicing portion control. Since metabolism slows, a woman should consume less calories per day than she did when she was younger. These methods do work for most women, but do not treat the underlying problem: fluctuating hormone levels.
To better control weight, prevent weight gain and even lose weight, a woman needs to bring her hormones back into balance. She can use natural, herbal supplements to help increase her production of estrogen and progesterone and to help balance hormones.
FAQ: If diet, exercise and herbal supplements are not enough, are there other ways to treat weight gain?
A: Unfortunately for some women, changing their diet, exercising regularly and taking supplements are not enough to prevent weight gain. These women may want to discuss diet pills or surgical options with their doctor. The most common type of surgery is liposuction, which reduces fat in a targeted area. Women thinking about medications or surgery to aid in weight loss should discuss these options with their doctor. They both have risks and side effects associated with them, and only a doctor can help the patient decide if these are the right treatments for them.