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What Causes Postmenopausal Women to Gain Weight?

Just like puberty, menopause is a normal part of a woman’s life. Typically occurring in the late 40s to early 50s, menopause causes a variety of changes in a woman’s biological functioning. The menopause transition can begin several years before a woman’s last menstrual cycle and ends one year after her last menstruation. After one full year without a monthly period, a woman enters the postmenopause stage, which lasts for the rest of her life. Along with hot flashes and mood changes, many women also experience weight gain after menopause.

Hormonal Changes and Aging

During menopause, a woman’s hormone levels fluctuate extensively. These hormones include estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones made in the ovaries. Although the hormone changes don’t necessarily cause you to gain weight, they do make it more likely for added weight to accumulate around the abdomen, rather than the lower body. As the body ages, muscle mass tends to diminish around the same time as menopause occurs. As this lean muscle mass diminishes, it is often replaced by fat.

Lifestyle Changes

Typically, weight gain after menopause is directly caused by lifestyle changes. According to Ellen Dolden in the Huffington Post, women tend to exercise less often after menopause. A lack of exercise also contributes to your body’s shift from lean muscle mass to fat accumulation. If you are not exercising often enough to replace the muscle mass lost through the normal aging process, the fat only continues to accumulate. And as your body’s fat stores increase and muscle mass decreases, your metabolism slows. If you continue eating the same amount of calories without exercising, the decreased metabolism almost certainly guarantees weight gain.

Dangers

Gaining even just a few extra pounds of weight places your body at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. If the weight gain occurs around the abdomen – which is common after menopause – it significantly increases your risk of future metabolic disease, according to Science Daily. Gaining just a few pounds of weight after menopause can also increase your risk of certain types of cancer, including breast and colorectal cancer.

Prevention

The techniques for preventing weight gain after menopause are identical to those suggested for preventing weight gain at any time in your life. The simple rule of weight gain states that consuming more calories than you burn on a regular basis results in weight gain. On the other hand, consuming fewer calories than you burn on a regular basis results in weight loss. Along with participating in at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, aim to simply move more every day. For example, take the stairs, park at the back of the lot, and pace around the house while chatting on the phone. Along with burning more calories through exercise, try to reduce calories and maintain a healthy diet. Fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts and lean meats.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.