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Menopause and Weight Gain

When you talk to most women over 50 you will easily find that menopause and weight gain are linked in their experience. It is very common to put on some extra weight at this age and while some of this may be due to changes in lifestyle , that does not explain why all at a sudden we develop a tendency to put on extra weight at different parts of our body, especially the abdomen, while any weight gained when we were younger used to be centered on the hips.

It is a fact that hormonal changes have a part to play in this, but the process is not completely understood. At menopause women stop ovulating, their monthly menstruation periods end, and their body starts to produce lower levels of the female hormone estrogen, a horman that is responsible for the ovulation process. Low estrogen has been proved to cause weight gain in animals and it is almost certainly the reason why women bodies change shape. While women of child bearing age store fat in the lower body (hips), after menopause they store that fat on the abdomen instead, just like men. This leads to a greater risk of heart diseases.

At the same time, both women and men tend to experience muscle turning into fat as they grow older, add to that the fact that metabolism slows down at that age. This means that if you do not adjust your eating habits you will certainly have your weight increase. A person at 60 does not need as many calories as a person at 40.

Hormone therapy with estrogen is sometimes prescribed by physicians to control post menopause symptoms. Many women will be surprised to find that studies have shown that hormone therapy does not cause weight gain. Some women experience bloating and water retention in the early stages of hormone therapy but this is usually temporary and they don't not gain any fat. Hormone therapy can reduce the risk of heart diseases by preventing the changes in the process of body fat storage around the abdomen and lowering cholesterol levels. However, hormone therapy has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in some studies.

If you find that your weight increases around the menopause, there are several things you can do.

- Eat healthy, low fat diets with plenty of fiber and avoid sugar.

- Start regular exercise. As people get older their physical activity levels naturally drop. Work often becomes less physically demanding, there are no kids to run around after, we take less active holidays and do things more slowly. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day will help balance out the effect of this.

- Maintain your muscle strength and mass. Use weights for arm muscles and walking or cycling for legs.

- Accept the changes to your body shape. If you are not overweight, and only have a thicker waist and slimmer legs, that is Ok.

Consult with your phusician before starting any exercise program if you have any medical condition or your fitness levels are very low. Your doctor can also help with symptoms of the menopause and weight gain.


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