QUESTION: Is it true that menopause causes weight gain?
ANSWER: The correlation between menopause and increased body fat levels continues to be studied.
Many women report experiencing weight gain around the time of menopause and in the years after. The average age of menopause is 51, and life expectancy for women is 80 years. It is true that hormonal changes, such as the loss of estrogen associated with menopause, has been linked to an increased risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, poorer muscle power and tone, and some deterioration in vision and brain function. When taking a closer look at the issue of weight gain, however, lifestyle habits rather than menopause itself, may play the biggest role. Here's what we do know:
Our bodies use calories all around the clock, when we are active and when we are at rest. A significant number of calories are needed to help regenerate bone and muscle tissue, and therefore, the more muscle and bone you have, the speedier your metabolism is, 24/7. The No. 1 way to help maintain or increase muscle and bone tissue is physical activity, primarily resistance (strength) training.
Some loss is normal as we age, but we have the power to slow down this process if we make the choice to exercise. That said, it is equally important to pay attention to how hard you are working when you are active. Regular exercise, with proper intensity, frequency and duration, combined with a reasonably healthy and well-balanced diet, make it much less likely that you will put on pounds and inches as you age.
A huge added benefit is that those who exercise as opposed to dieting alone to lose weight stand a much better chance of keeping the weight off. So forget fad or crash diets when trying to slim down. Shedding just 10 percent of body weight also lowers blood pressure and improves lipid profiles (cholesterol). Simply put, making the choice to take good care of yourself equates to a better quality of life. While there is still much to learn, some evidence suggests that the way body fat is distributed in both men and women is associated with fluctuating hormone levels. As estrogen levels decline, for example, even if total body weight remains the same, increased visceral fat around the midsection may occur in some women. Mayo Clinic researchers have found evidence that genetics play a role. Ongoing studies are being conducted to try to identify which gene is responsible. The Healthy Women's Study engaged 541 healthy, initially pre- menopausal women, 42 to 50 years of age. About 20 percent of these women gained 10 pounds or more of total body weight during the first three years of the study, while only 3 percent lost that amount of weight. The factor that was most consistently related to weight gain was a decline in physical activity, and it was determined that the postmenopausal women were less physically active than same-age premenopausal women. When it comes to nutrition, we do know that consuming unsaturated fats rather than saturated and trans fats results in less accumulation of abdominal fat. For most people, limiting cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day is recommended. Contact Marjie Gilliam in care of the Dayton Daily News or at (937) 878-9018. Her Web site is at www.ohtrainer.com. (c) 2008 Dayton Daily News. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.