While menopausal weight gain isn’t inevitable, it is quite common. Women in menopause often have trouble sleeping, which is associated with weight gain. As part of the normal aging process, their level of physical activity also tends to drop, making weight gain more likely. In addition, the decrease in estrogen levels associated with menopause affects the way fat is stored, making it more likely that weight will accumulate around the abdomen.
All of these factors combine to make it easier to gain weight, and harder to lose it while experiencing the transition of menopause.
Unfortunately, abdominal or “belly fat” poses a greater health risk than other types of fat. Belly fat has been found to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems, including sleep apnea, and high cholesterol. The redistribution of fat that often accompanies menopause can increase the risk of pre-mature death, even when no actual weight gain has occurred.
As women’s bodies begin to change, women’s diet and exercise routines may need to change as well. The behaviors that allowed them to maintain their fitness levels before menopause, may no longer be enough. Unfortunately, there aren’t any shortcuts to combatting menopausal weight gain or removing unhealthy abdominal fat.
If women know what to expect from menopause, however, they are better prepared to manage its effects. Adopting a healthy lifestyle before menopause begins, can help women prepare for the challenges that may come later.