Weight gain in a woman’s 40s and 50s is a pretty typical complaint, even for women who’ve never had a weight problem in the past. Unfortunately, during the years of menopause, along with the other changes women experience that signal the end of reproduction, their bodies also seem to be pre-programmed to put on extra pounds.
It’s a fact of life that everyone’s metabolism slows about 5 percent a decade as they age; during menopause, studies suggest that metabolism may slow an additional 5 to 10 percent. An Australian study published in the journal Obesity in 2005 found that the average weight gain of study participants during menopause was at least 11 pounds.
Not only do menopausal and pre-menopausal women put on weight more easily, but their weight tends to be concentrated in the abdominal area, putting them at increased risk of coronary artery disease as well as vascular disease (conditions that affect the circulatory system, such as peripheral artery disease) and stroke. Gaining weight during menopause also raises a woman’s risk for metabolic syndrome, defined as having several risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease that may include insulin resistance (when the cells of the body become resistant to insulin), hypertension (high blood pressure), morbid obesity (having a BMI of 40 or higher), and/or hyperlipidimia (elevated fats in the bloodstream).
Diet and Exercise During Menopause Can Help
So what can women going through menopause do to fight the extra pounds? The only real way to counteract weight gain during menopause is to eat less and exercise more. A medical weight loss program can also help women get back to their original weight through an individualized plan that takes a woman’s lifestyle and food preferences into account. Here are three things that can help prevent weight gain during menopause:
1. Reduce your calories. As your metabolism slows, you need fewer calories a day to maintain a consistent weight. Be sure most of your calories are coming from healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and lean sources of protein. Your Center for Medical Weight Loss (CMWL) physician can help determine an eating plan that makes sense for you.
2. Increase your exercise. Studies have shown that women need to exercise the equivalent of an hour a day at least five days a week – or a total of five hours a week – to not gain weight. Though cardiovascular activity, such as walking, biking, running, or swimming, will help increase your metabolism and burn fat, strength or resistance training is important for maintaining your muscle mass, which can also raise your metabolism and burn more calories.
3. Visit a physician specializing in medical weight loss. A Center for Medical Weight Loss doctor can tailor a weight loss program based on BMI, body composition analysis, and weight loss goals and can provide counseling to help you make necessary lifestyle changes. If needed, these physicians can also prescribe medications to help speed up a woman’s metabolism.
Benefits of Weight Loss During Menopause
Maintaining a healthy weight during menopause has many health benefits. It helps to decrease a woman’s risk of metabolic syndrome-related diseases, as well as cancer – specifically breast, endometrial, cervical, and colon cancers, all related to fat percentage and being overweight. Plus, you’ll feel less stressed, more energized, and generally better about yourself if you know you’re actively working to keep the pounds at bay.
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