Menopause and weight gain

What happens to a woman's body during menopause and how these changes affect a woman's weight.

Weight gain during menopause (menopause) is very common. The menopausal process is very individual for each woman and is affected by many factors. The main ones are:

  • Hormonal changes;
  • Aging;
  • Lifestyle;
  • Genetics.
 

Women 's reproductive life cycle

A woman experiences four periods of hormonal changes during her lifetime, which can cause a variety of symptoms, including changes in body weight.

 

1 Premenopause

Pre-menopause is not a medically accepted term. Pre-menopause refers to a period of about 30-40 years during which a woman is fertile, from the first menstrual period to the last.

This phase is not characterized by any of the classic signs of menopause and there are no noticeable changes in the body, but some women may still experience some symptoms associated with hormonal changes, such as irregular periods.

 

2 Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the transition from pre-menopause to menopause, when a woman ends her period. The exact onset of perimenopause is difficult to determine precisely. This is a transitional period that usually starts after the age of forty and can last for several years (from 2 to 10 years in some sources, from 2 to 10 years in others). 4 to 11 years).

At this time:

  • Gradually decreases the most important female sex hormone - estrogen and progesterone production in the ovaries;
  • Ovarian function gradually dries out;
  • The duration of menstrual cycles changes and they become more irregular.
 

What causes perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a natural process that occurs when the ovaries gradually stop working. Ovulation becomes irregular at first and then stops.

Changes in hormone levels cause a variety of symptoms - if the estrogen level is higher, the symptoms may be similar to those of PMS, if the estrogen level is low, hot flushes or night sweats are possible.

 

What are the symptoms of perimenopause?

It is sometimes difficult to tell whether the observed symptoms indicate the onset of perimenopause or whether they have other causes, as perimenopause begins and progresses differently in each woman. The most common symptoms or signs are as follows:

  • Mood changes, such as irritability, depression, anxiety;
  • Changes in sexual activity / libido;
  • Concentration problems;
  • Headaches;
  • Increased sweating;
  • Night sweats;
  • Heat waves;
  • Vaginal dryness;
  • Sleep disorders;
  • Joint and muscle pain;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Menstrual changes and PMS-like symptoms;
  • Weight gain.

But don't make hasty conclusions - consult your gynecologist. Blood tests to determine hormone levels may be needed to make an accurate diagnosis.

 

How to reduce the symptoms of perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a natural process and therefore no treatment is required. However, these changes in a woman's body cause physical and emotional symptoms that can become bothersome. These symptoms can be reduced by:

  • Hormone therapy - using estrogen or estrogen and progestins, to balance hormone levels;
  • Antidepressants for mood stabilization;
  • Lifestyle changes.
 

Lifestyle changes

Effective measures that can help reduce the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are mainly mentioned physical activity (speeds up metabolism) and healthy diet (provides the body with everything it needs). However, there is no known "menopause diet" that can relieve the symptoms of menopause 100%.

The following lifestyle and dietary changes are recommended:

  • Dress comfortably - choose loose clothing. Tight pants or a tight-fitting dress restrict movement and keep you warm. Loose clothing allows air to flow around your body and cool it;
  • Have a cool drink at hand - drinking cool water can help you cope with hot flashes;
  • Drink in moderation - the effects of alcohol have not been fully studied, but it may make symptoms such as hot flushes worse;
  • Exercise - Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect during and after perimenopause. Especially resistance training and aerobic exercise can reduce hot flashes, but further research is needed to confirm this;
  • Quit smoking - smoking is associated with increased hot flushes and night sweats;
  • Maintain a healthy weight - Symptoms tend to be more common in women who are overweight;
  • Eat healthy - increase the proportion of vegetables, whole grains and fruits in your diet;
  • Take at least 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium every day, preferably with food (such as dairy products) rather than food supplements;
  • Hot flushes such as spicy foods, alcohol, coffee or tea can also cause hot flashes. Listen to yourself and try to identify the causes of the symptoms.
 

3 Menopause

A woman is considered to be menopausal if she has not had a period for 12 months in a row (the body has stopped producing the hormones that cause her period). For most women menopause occurs at about 51 years of age. However, a small proportion of women experience menopause as early as age 40, and some occur after age 60. There are studies that show that menopause occurs 1.5 to 2 years earlier in women who smoke compared to non-smokers.

 

What are the symptoms of menopause?

The symptoms of menopause are similar to those of perimenopause and are different for each woman:

  • Heat waves;
  • Decreased libido, various sexual health problems are also possible;
  • Vaginal dryness;
  • Mood swings.

For many women, the symptoms are more severe during perimenopause, while for others they worsen in the first or first two years after menopause.

The cause of the symptoms during perimenopause and menopause is the same - hormonal changes. The following measures to help reduce the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are the same.

 

4 Postmenopause

The postmenopausal period begins immediately after a woman has been menstruating for 12 months. Menopausal symptoms may become milder or disappear completely. However, some women continue to experience menopausal symptoms for ten years or more after menopause.

 

How hormonal changes affect metabolism

During perimenopause, progesterone levels fall slowly and steadily, while estrogen levels fluctuate significantly, often within a day.

At the beginning of perimenopause, the ovaries often produce extremely high amounts of estrogen. Later in the perimenopause, when menstrual cycles become more irregular, the ovaries produce very little estrogen and even less during menopause.

Studies show that high levels of estrogen can contribute to fat gain in women of childbearing potential and therefore elevated estrogen levels at the beginning of perimenopause are also thought to lead to weight gain.

From puberty to perimenopause, fats in a woman's body tend to accumulate in the hips and thighs as subcutaneous fat, which does not increase the risk of disease. During menopause, low levels of estrogen contribute to the accumulation of fat in the abdomen as visceral fats associated with risks of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

Weight changes during perimenopause

It is estimated that women gain about 1 to 2 kg during perimenopause. However, some gain weight even more - especially women who are already overweight or obese.

Weight gain can also occur regardless of hormonal changes - as a result of aging.

In a study of weight change in women aged 42 to 50 years At 3 years, there were no differences in mean weight gain between women with normal cycles and those with menopause. However, 20% women gained 4.5 kg or more during the study and only 3% lost weight.

Another study of 543 middle-aged women throughout the perimenopausal period (6 years) found that women had a significant increase in abdominal fat and a decrease in muscle mass.

Another factor that contributes to weight gain during perimenopause may be increased appetite due to hormonal changes that result in extra calories.

It has also been found that ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin levels in perimenopausal women are almost 2-fold highercompared to premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Also low estrogen levels in the late stages of menopause may worsen leptin and neuropeptide Y activity (hormones that control satiety and appetite).

The effects of progesterone on weight during perimenopause and menopause have not been studied much. However, some researchers believe that a combination of low estrogen and progesterone could further increase the risk of obesity.

Weight changes during and after menopause

Hormonal changes and weight gain in women may continue into menopause.

One of the factors influencing weight gain may be the age at which menopause occurs. The study involved 1932 women, found that postmenopausal women who were menopausal much earlier than 51 years of age were less fat than their pre - menopausal peers.

Other factors that can contribute to weight gain after menopause are:

Important! Remember that studies show averages, but they do not apply to 100% for all women, because, as I said, these processes are different for each woman.

 

How to prevent weight gain during menopause

Although weight gain is very common during menopause, you can reduce or even eliminate it:

More on that how much deep, shallow and REM sleep we need to read HERE.

 

In conclusion

Menopause is a complex and often unavoidable process, both physically and emotionally.

Of course, it takes time to adapt to the processes that take place in your body - however healthy diet, adequate exercise and sleep can help reduce the unpleasant symptoms of menopause, prevent weight gain and reduce the risk of many diseases.

 

Sources:

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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