Menopause is the complete and irreversible shift in the dynamics of female reproductive cycle. The severity of symptoms may vary from female to female; depending on the overall physical health, age at menopause, co-existing health issues and environmental/ genetic factors. Classic symptoms of menopause are:
- Vaginal dryness that interferes with normal sexual functions
- Sleep disturbances due to hot flashes and night sweats
- Weight gain due to negative changes in metabolism
- Vascular and metabolic changes that may cause migraines and palpitations
- Mood swings
- Negative changes in bone mineral density, thinning of bones and increased propensity to develop bone fractures/ joint dislocations
Menopausal Weight Gain – Is it a myth or fact?
Are you aware that the prevalence of obesity in perimenopausal (40 to 58 years) and menopausal (over 60 years) women increases drastically to 36.0% and 42.3% from an average of 31.9% in reproductive aged women (20-39 years of age)? According to a new study, more than 90% females experience some degree of increased weight after achieving menopause (1).
Based on extensive research and analysis; experts believes that the phenomena of gaining weight during menopause is multifactorial. For example, according to a study published in the peer reviewed American Journal of Epidemiology (2), investigators reported that an average female gains approximately 1.1 pounds per year after 35 years as part of the physiological aging process, which is independent of menopausal hormonal changes. However, once a female approaches menopause, the deposition and expansion of adipose tissues increases significantly.
The primary pathophysiological factors that may contribute to this are:
- Lack of estrogen and deposition of adipose tissues: Lack of estrogen production by gonads (ovaries) activates the regulatory mechanisms in the body. Since adipose tissues are also a great source of estrogen (due to peripheral conversion of testosterone with the help of enzyme aromatase), the body favors the deposition of more adipose tissues to make up for the deficiency of estrogen.
- High levels of Androgens: Menopause is often followed by an increase in the serum levels of androgens that are associated with deposition of fat (especially in the mid-section of the body).
- Low testosterone production or high conversion: High testosterone levels are associated with deposition of lean body mass/ muscles that are more active metabolically in terms of calorie expenditure. However, due to aromatase mediated conversion of testosterone to estrogen, the overall rate of muscle deposition decreases. The adipose tissues are metabolically inert (i.e. are not helpful in burning calories at rest).
- Insulin Resistance: Menopausal changes in metabolism favors the development of insulin resistance. The overall result is; calories consumed by the females are more readily converted into fat due to minimal peripheral utilization of glucose.
Other causes of menopausal weight gain are:
- Unhealthy lifestyle (excessive consumption of alcohol, sedentary lifestyle, poor activity etc.
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Co-existing health issues
- Hormonal dysregulation (especially hypothyroidism is very common in aging females and is often missed by healthcare professionals)
- Use of medications (especially psychotropic drugs, anti-hypertensive medications etc.)
Menopausal weight gain and health concerns:
According to a new study reported in the clinical journal Climacteric (3), investigators suggested that menopausal weight gain is strongly associated with a significant increase in total body fat stores and abdominal obesity. Weight gain and abdominal obesity is a huge concern in menopausal women because:
- Abnormal lipid stores in the body can greatly aggravate the risk of cardiovascular issues, type 2 diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis and related health issues
- Healthcare providers believe that disturbing symptoms of menopause (such as mood swings, depression, hot flashes, insomnia) are more severe in obese menopausal population as compared to females with optimal body mass indices.
- Risk of certain cancers also increases due to abnormal estrogen metabolism in adipose tissue stores
- Several research studies have explained the risk of osteoporosis, bone thinning and bone mineral density changes in menopausal women. It is imperative to mention that the deleterious effects of these changes are even higher in females with high body mass indices.
The pathological effects and economic cost of healthcare is fairly high in obese menopausal women. In addition, poorly managed weight can also have deleterious effects on the psychological or emotional health of aging women. It is therefore recommended to opt for natural hormone therapy as well as management options to address these concerns:
Want to know more about how you can overcome menopausal symptoms like weight gain? Call our location nearest to you to schedule a no-cost hormone analysis.
Richmond clinic: 800-656-8386
St. Louis clinic: 800-815-8456
Or, download our newest ebook –> Hot and Bothered: The Essential 9-Step Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Menopause