Menopause doesn’t have to mean a bigger waistline

Find Out What You Can Do To Stop The Weight Gain Before Your First Hot Flash

Sitting in a crowded room, and a feeling of warmth overtakes you. You feel as if the temperature in the room has increased 20 degrees in 60 seconds. You look around and notice that no one else seems to be feeling the heat of the earth’s core rising all around you.

For women in the early stages of menopause, or perimenopause, hot flashes are just one of the many symptoms that can be associated with this transitional time in a woman’s life.

Most menopausal symptoms—heart racing, night sweats and insomnia–are uncomfortable. But one symptom associated with menopause and advanced age—weight gain—can put a woman at higher risk for developing health problems.

“Weight gain is a problem throughout a woman’s life, starting in the teenage years,” said Patricia J. Sulak, MD, clinical director of research, obstetrics and gynecology. “And I think that it’s important to stop the weight gain before we get to menopause.”

Dr. Sulak said that menopause doesn’t necessarily cause weight gain, but as women age, they are less active, their metabolism slows down and their muscles decrease in size.


“And we do slow down as we age, but none of this is inevitable,” she said. “It’s never too late to increase your activity and to start making healthy food choices.”

Increase Movement

Because our culture often chooses convenience over movement, Dr. Sulak said women need to consciously integrate exercise into their lives to combat the tendency to gain weight as they age.

“Once you begin an exercise program, you have to start out slowly or you’re just going to get very disgruntled and you’re going to quit,” she said. “If you’re walking, then you need to determine how much you can start out walking.”

Dr. Sulak suggests going to your local running track and seeing how many laps you can do at a time. Two laps are equal to a half mile and four laps is a mile.

“You can also get hand weights or exercise at home with a Wii,” she said.

Having a gym membership is ideal, the doctor said, but it’s not mandatory. However, with flexible hours and trained staff, it is often worth the investment.

“I think it’s great if you’re starting out to get a couple of sessions with a trainer,” she said. “They can teach you how to exercise correctly and get the most out of your workout.”

Know The Status Of Your Health

Not only should women be more active, they should also know how well they’re bodies are working.

“Every woman, over the age of 20, ought to know her cholesterol and blood pressure,” she said. “Because if you have high cholesterol and high blood pressure and a high fasting blood sugar, all of those things put you at risk for heart disease.”

Heart disease is the single leading cause of death for American women, according to the American Heart Association. Nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.

Don’t Keep Up With The Joneses

Another issue that causes women to gain weight, especially later in life, is trying to match the caloric intake of those around them.

“You need to eat what you need to eat; not what your neighbor’s eating; not what your husband’s eating,” she said. “Can I eat a huge bowl of ice cream like my husband and get away with it? No, so I don’t eat it.”

Dr. Sulak tells women to act their weight. Know your health stats and live your life accordingly.

Click here for some healthy weight tips and tools from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Another place to find wellness advice is at the annual conference hosted by Scott & White.

It’s called Wellness: Habits That Lead to Health and Happiness and will take place at the Knight’s of Columbus in Temple on June 29.

“By the end of the day they have to write down what their goals are, what they need to work on and what’s keeping them from leading a healthy, happy life.”

For more information on the wellness conference contact Terry Buckley at 254-724-5009.

Mind Over Matter

“I always say that we all have 1,440 minutes in every day. So, the questions is, what are you doing with your minutes?” she said. “Where are some places where you know you can give something up?”

The first thing to tell yourself is, I will make healthy choices and I am going to find time to exercise, Dr. Sulak said.

“The body will follow the mind,” she said. “If the mind isn’t there, then it’s not going to happen.”

Myths about Menopause and Weight Gain

Myth: Weight gain is inevitable.

Fact: With a healthy diet and lots of exercise, older women can combat weight gain.

Myth: Hormone therapies cause weight gain.

Fact: Studies have shown that hormone therapies do not cause weight gain. The dose of hormones is too low to affect weight.

Myth: Deterioration of health can’t be stopped.

Fact: Knowing your health stats: blood pressure, cholesterol level, fasting blood sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI) can help you know the status of your health going into menopause and how to maintain or improve your health.

About the author

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Menopause doesn’t have to mean a bigger waistline