Many women have trouble maintaining their weight after menopause.  Post-menopausal women gain five extra pounds on average.  Weight gain can be the result of hereditary factors and lifestyle choices.  However, it may also be due in part to hormonal changes.  Lower levels of estrogen after menopause make women more likely to gain weight around the abdomen.

The body’s metabolism naturally slows down as women age.  Muscle mass decreases and fat increases.  Women often find that they will either have to decrease the amount they eat or increase their physical activity to maintain their weight at pre-menopausal levels.  A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training helps women maintain a healthy weight.  Healthy eating also plays a large role.  Women should eat 200 fewer calories a day after menopause and concentrate on a diet containing lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  They should stay away from processed foods, skip the sweets, and limit alcohol.

Health risks of weight gain after menopause

While weight gain at any time comes with potential health implications, there are certain health risks that come with weight gain after menopause.

  • High blood pressure – Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.  It damages the blood vessels and overworks the heart.  Many people with hypertension don’t realize they have it since there are not always symptoms.
  • Diabetes – Hormonal shifts can contribute to blood sugar reaching problematic levels during and after menopause.  A reduction in levels of estrogen and progesterone affect how the body uses insulin and can lead to insulin resistance.  Diabetes can increase the risk for serious health implications for women including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, blindness, and depression.
  • High cholesterol – Estrogen helps regulate cholesterol levels.  Reduced levels of estrogen following menopause may cause the bad cholesterol (LDL) to increase as well as triglycerides.  This is another risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Cancer – Excess weight increases the risk of some types of cancer including breast and colon cancer.
  • Osteoporosis – There is a direct relationship between lower levels of estrogen and osteoporosis.  Bone loss increases the risk of fractures in post-menopausal women.   Early bone loss is called the “silent” disease due to its lack of symptoms.  Women who stay active, do weight bearing exercises, and quit smoking may reduce their risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • Heart disease – This is the number one cause of death for women.  Menopause doesn’t cause heart disease but does elevate certain risk factors including hypertension and high cholesterol.  Regular checkups with your healthcare professional can help women to identify potential risks before they become problems.

Next steps

The physicians at RMD Primary Care can answer your questions about women’s health, menopause, and medical weight lossContact us today for an appointment.