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Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread

Published On: Jun 20 2013 09:57:58 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 02 2013 02:24:15 PM CDT
woman with apple, bottle of water after workout

iStock/killerb10

By Mayo Clinic News Network

As you get older, you might notice that maintaining your usual weight becomes more difficult. In fact, many women gain weight around the menopause transition.

Menopause weight gain isn't inevitable, however. You can reverse course by paying attention to healthy-eating habits and leading an active lifestyle.

What causes menopause weight gain?

The hormonal changes of menopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen than around your hips and thighs. Hormonal changes alone don't necessarily trigger menopause weight gain, however. Instead, the weight gain is usually related to aging, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors.

For example, muscle mass typically diminishes with age, while fat increases. Loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. If you continue to eat as you always have and don't increase your physical activity, you're likely to gain weight.

Genetic factors also might play a role in menopause weight gain. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you're likely to do the same.

Sometimes factors such as the stress of children leaving -- or returning -- home, divorce, the death of a spouse, or other life changes might change your diet or exercise habits and contribute to menopause weight gain.

How risky is weight gain after menopause?

Menopause weight gain can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

What's the best way to prevent weight gain after menopause?

There's no magic formula for preventing -- or reversing -- menopause weight gain. Simply stick to weight-control basics:

  • Move more. Aerobic activity can help you shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Strength training counts, too. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently -- which makes it easier to control your weight. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, for at least 75 minutes a week. In addition, strength training exercises are recommended at least twice a week. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you might need to exercise more.
  • Eat less. To maintain your current weight -- let alone lose excess pounds -- you might need about 200 fewer calories a day during your 50s than you did during your 30s and 40s. To reduce calories without skimping on nutrition, pay attention to what you're eating and drinking. Choose more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Opt for lean sources of protein.
  • Seek support. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who'll support your efforts to eat a healthy diet and increase your physical activity. Better yet, team up and make the lifestyle changes together.

Remember, successful weight loss at any stage of life requires permanent changes in diet and exercise habits. Take a brisk walk every day. Try a yoga class. Swap cookies for fresh fruit. Split restaurant meals with a friend. Commit to the changes and enjoy a healthier you!

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/menopause-weight-gain/HQ01076/NSECTIONGROUP=2

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