Menopause doesn’t make you as fat as you thought | Science & Tech

Every time a new year begins, countless people, including many women, start new plans with the goal of losing weight. While ideally, the approach should revolve around changing habits to improve well-being and quality of life, and to lose weight as a result of those changes, the reality is that many women are still obsessed with the numbers they see on the scale.

Many middle-aged women blame the menopausal transition process for their weight gain. It's not uncommon for women between the ages of 45 and 55 to suddenly find themselves gaining 25 pounds. At least “suddenly” was the term they chose to use in their consultations — but it didn't happen overnight. What actually happens is a little more complex and involves a series of simultaneous events that increase the risk of gaining body fat mass during this phase.

The first is perimenopause, which occurs in the years before menopause and is characterized by a series of symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep, emotional or genitourinary disorders, among others. Perimenopause is often the first culprit for weight gain. However, research shows that, on average, women tend to gain 4 to 7 pounds during the menopause transition, although the exact number varies from case to case.

Lack of estrogen leads to increased body fat, but also loss of muscle mass, so the weight itself doesn't change much. What really happens, however, is a redistribution of body fat. Before entering the perimenopause period, body fat is mainly distributed in the buttocks and the subcutaneous area of ​​the buttocks; while postmenopausal women tend to have more total fat, a higher proportion of overall fat, and accumulation of abdominal fat.

lower calorie consumption

The effects of aging on body weight can be noticed from the age of 30. Muscle mass begins to gradually decrease at this point, which translates into a lower basal metabolic rate; women burn fewer calories at rest because they have less muscle.

Changes in age can also lead to a decrease in physical activity. It may be subtle and barely noticeable, but it has a cumulative effect on energy expenditure, as exercising or reducing exercise affects muscle mass, reducing its proportion and causing a drop in basal metabolic rate. All of these lead to increased body fat.

In 2022, two women exercise in a park in Madrid.
In 2022, two women exercise in a park in Madrid.sol

That's why regular physical activity is key to maintaining muscle mass in women. Oddly, the proportion of women who become sedentary increases after age 35; half of women aged 45 to 64 do not do any physical activity at all.

Most of the scientific literature produced to date supports the theory that weight gain in mature women is primarily due to increasing age and lifestyle changes, and that the drop in estrogen caused by menopause itself does not produce significant weight gain after adjusting for age .

Another factor that may be associated with increased body fat during the menopausal transition is sleep disturbance, which is characteristic of this stage. In addition, if hot flashes and night sweats are recurring, lack of rest can lead to increased fatigue and decreased physical activity, whether spontaneous or planned.

Emotional instability is another symptom of the menopausal transition. Mood swings can interfere with the development of healthy habits and lead to weight gain, which may be through using food as an outlet for emotions, or finding the motivation or desire to exercise or eat healthy food.

It seems that a mature woman faces a losing battle when it comes to keeping her weight within a range that allows for her health and quality of life. However, a healthy weight can be achieved through a multifactorial approach to weight loss management: diet, physical activity, and psychological support to make it easier to change habits.

For all of these reasons, it is important to be aware and intentionally adjust your diet and physical activity, understand the changes that occur in your body and that weight loss is not just an end in itself, but the result of self-care and a healthy lifestyle.

global first

The fact that many women between the ages of 45 and 55 (the age range in which menopause occurs) is overweight or obese endangers the well-being of a very significant portion of the world's population because of the serious long-term consequences these problems may have on their health.

Obesity is a complex chronic disease. It is characterized by abnormal excess body fat, which negatively affects the physical and mental health of patients. Its enormous health impact makes it one of the most important public health problems worldwide, as obesity increases cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer (breast, endometrial, ovarian) and Risk of osteoarthritis. Therefore, its prevention and treatment are global priorities.

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