Written on April 14, 2023 by Lori Mulligan, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Before we attempt to answer the question, it is important to understand the menopausal transition.
According to the National Institute on Aging, menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman's last period. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause.
The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The duration can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, age it begins, and race and ethnicity.
During perimenopause, the body's production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones made by the ovaries, varies greatly.
The menopausal transition affects each woman uniquely and in various ways.
The body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily. You may experience changes in your bone or heart health, your body shape and composition, or your physical function .
Answering the question of whether menopause causes weight gain is not as straightforward as one may think. The North American Menopause Society states that there is no scientific evidence that menopause is responsible for midlife weight gain .
However, the hormonal changes of menopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen than around your hips and thighs.
According to the State Government of Victoria in Australia, in postmenopausal women, belly fat accounts for 15 to 20% of their total body weight, compared with 5 to 8% in premenopausal women .
Contributors to weight gain during menopause include declining estrogen levels and other factors, such as genetic factors, age-related loss of muscle tissue, and lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise.
For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, muscle mass typically diminishes with age, while fat increases. Losing muscle mass slows the rate at which your body uses calories (metabolism). This can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. If you continue to eat as you always have and don't increase your physical activity, you're likely to gain weight.
Genetic factors might also play a role in menopause weight gain. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you're likely to do the same.
Other factors, such as a lack of exercise, unhealthy eating, and not enough sleep, might contribute to menopause weight gain. When people don't get enough sleep, they tend to snack more and consume more calories .
It is important to maintain a healthy weight as menopausal weight gain, especially around your midsection, increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis, according to the Department of Health and Human Services .
Excess weight also increases your risk of various types of cancer, including breast, colon, and endometrial cancers.
The Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust offers the following ways to prevent weight gain:
Eat smaller portions. We need less food than we used to. Every year over the age of 40 years, our basal metabolic rate (BMR, the rate at which we burn off calories) slows down. Make sure that each portion is full of good nutritious food that will protect health as well as help weight. Reduce the intake of sugar and processed food—enemies of weight loss that are more likely to increase abdominal fat.
Be mindful of alcohol intake: These are empty calories!
Keep active: Studies show that exercise increases our fat-burning. And, the more we exercise, the more we strengthen our muscles and bones. Women’s muscle mass declines around menopause. Muscle is efficient at burning calories: doing resistance work and lifting weights will increase muscle. An increase of 2 kg of muscle = a 10% increase in BMR. Developing strong and toned muscles will make clothes fit better, as well as increase self-confidence.
Wherever possible, address stress: Cortisol, the stress hormone, encourages abdominal fat deposition. Talk to friends, family, work colleagues, and your healthcare professional about ways of reducing commitments, worries, and menopause symptoms.
Choose menopause as a time of life to try and bring out the best in yourself .
Our perimenopause test measures hormones that are commonly impacted by menopause. Your sex drive, metabolism, menstrual cycle, and body temperature can be impacted by your hormone levels. Checking critical hormones can provide insight into the changes your body may be experiencing, such as night sweats, hot flashes, weight changes, sleep disturbance, depression, irregular periods, and low libido.
Feeling different after menopause? Our postmenopause test measures key hormone levels that may be related to the postmenopausal symptoms you are experiencing.
Your test results will provide detailed information on whether the two hormones measured fall within normal ranges for a menopausal state. Testing these hormone levels may be beneficial for people taking or considering taking hormone replacement therapy.
Knowing the results of these tests gives you the data you need to modify your lifestyle so you can live life to the fullest as you age.
If you'd like to consult with a healthcare provider about your weight from the comfort of home, consider the telehealth weight management option accessed via Everlywell.