“Menopause Adds Pillows, Not Pounds, of Belly Fat”
by Annie Hauser, Everyday Health Staff Writer
Menopause does not cause weight gain, as many believe, but it does redistribute body fat, a new review finds.
Menopause causes women to gain belly fat, regardless of whether they have put on weight throughout their body, a new review from the International Menopause Society that's published in the journal Climateric finds.
The belly-fat-causing culprit is the menopausal drop in estrogen levels. Worldwide, 1.5 billion people are overweight and around 300 million women are obese, researchers say. Typically, hormonal changes are blamed for the higher obesity rate among women than men.
An increase in belly fat ups a person's risk for metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, so the International Menopause Society encourages women to be more aware of the problems associated with weight gain and take early steps to ensure that they don't gain excess weight during and after menopause.
"What this translates to in real terms is that women going through the menopause should begin to try to control their weight before it becomes a problem," review leader Susan Davis, PhD, of Monash University in Australia says. "So if you have not been looking after yourself before the menopause, you should certainly start to do so when it arrives. This means for all women being thoughtful about what you eat and for many, being more active every day."
She also notes that contrary to popular belief, estrogen therapy or HRT does not cause weight gain and can actually help prevent abdominal fat from increasing after menopause. But experts warn that weight gain alone isn't enough reason to start HRT, and that there are other options available to fight flab.
- • Move more. Increasing exercise is one of the best things you can do to fight fat. Midlife strength training has also been shown to benefit bone and brain health. But your physical activity goals should be about more than spending time at the gym: Aim to simply stand more throughout the day to prevent weight gain and help stave off chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
- • Watch your portions. As you age, your metabolism slows. Although the only way to truly boost your metabolism is to increase your body's muscle mass, you can help fight the metabolism slow-down through portion control and choosing foods that are high in lean protein and low in saturated fat and sugar.
- • Control stress — and sleep more. When you're stressed, the hormone cortisol spikes, encouraging your body to hang on to stubborn belly fat. To help control stress, try for at least seven hours of sleep every night and add stress-relieving techniques like yoga or meditation to your routine.