As we age, there are many positives to look forward to – you’re more in tune with your emotions, your self-esteem grows, and you’ve gained wisdom through your life experiences. Although there are many benefits to aging, weight gain can be an issue for many women as they enter menopause.
Menopause is defined as the time when a woman hasn’t had a menstrual period for 12 months. After those 12 months, a woman is considered postmenopausal. Women typically experience menopause between the ages of 45 to 55.
Although menopause itself doesn’t cause weight gain, estrogen level falls as part of the hormonal changes that happen within our bodies. Estrogen is essential in regulating body fat and storage. Falling estrogen levels can promote increased belly fat, also known as visceral fat. An increase in belly fat has been linked to significant health risks such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.
While it is not easy to lose weight at any age, weight loss after menopause is particularly challenging due to irreversible hormone changes. Changing your eating habits and lifestyle as you get older might be more difficult, but it is not impossible. Lifestyle modifications, including incorporating a healthy diet, increasing your activity level, getting enough sleep, and keeping stress at bay, can pave the way for weight loss.
The bottom line is to lose weight, you have to eat less. However, eating too few calories can have a negative effect on your muscle mass and your metabolism. It’s best to work with your primary care provider to determine a healthy number of calories for you. I recommend that my patients reduce their calorie intake and try the Mediterranean diet, which may be one of the best weight loss diets for menopausal women. The Mediterranean diet, which is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil, is good for your heart and may also help relieve some menopause symptoms.
As we age, we tend to be less active than when we were younger. However, staying physically active as we age is vital to our physical health. Just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity per day or 150 minutes per week, such as brisk walking, jogging, biking, or swimming, can make a difference. In addition, strength training is important to prevent stability and age-related muscle loss. Examples of strength training include weights, sit-ups, and push-ups. You don’t have to join a gym and lift heavy weights. There are many online options for weight-bearing exercises and exercises that incorporate resistance bands. Incorporating some simple strength training exercises can help your physical and mental well-being. Consider trying yoga, Pilates, or Tai chi to increase your flexibility.
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep disorders affect up to 47% of perimenopausal women and 60% of postmenopausal women. Sleep plays a critical role in your physical and mental well-being. The recommendation for adults is 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. Ongoing sleep deficiencies can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke. Sleep deficiencies can also increase the risk of obesity.
If you have insomnia, please practice good sleep hygiene. If necessary, please talk with your healthcare provider to determine if you might need a change in medication or if an underlying health condition is affecting your ability to sleep.
Chronic stress is terrible for your overall physical and mental health. It can cause an increase in blood pressure, blood sugar, depression, anxiety, headaches, and an increased risk for heart disease. Stress can also lead some to overeat. Managing stress is essential, and there are steps you can take, including exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and enjoying some daily pleasurable activities. Consider practicing diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, mindfulness, or journaling to help reduce stress levels. If you’re having a hard time controlling stress on your own, talk with your healthcare provider or a counselor.
If you are concerned about your weight, talk to your primary care provider so they can rule out any health-related causes and work with you to help you lose weight safely.