In the United States, approximately 70% of the adult population is overweight. For women, weight gain is greatest during menopause, with an average weight gain of 5 pounds during the transitional years.
The decline of estrogen production during menopause is associated not only with an increase in abdominal fat deposits but also a decrease in muscle. In addition, other factors can contribute to midlife weight gain. Lack of sleep, for instance, causes an increase in appetite and with less physical activity can contribute to obesity. Sedentary lifestyles, mild depression or an inability to move due to conditions such as osteo-arthritis may also be factors that ay play an important role in weight gain.
Being overweight is not only associated with an increase in heart diseases, but also has been linked to an increase in cancer, especially those of the breast, colon and lungs.
However, as one may suspect, excess calorie intake (i.e. overeating) remains the major contributor to excessive weight gain for menopausal women.
Maintenance of an ideal body weight is always important, but more so in peri-menopause and beyond. Attention to diet and increasing exercise during this time are important to control weight gain, but other factors may need to be addressed such as sleep disturbances or excessive mood changes. It is helpful to separate food intake form daily activity, like watching TV, driving or using a computer.
We all know it is hard to step on the scale for an annual exam. However, next time, take the opportunity to discuss this issue with your physician and take control. After all, we are women…..