Weight Gain and other problems during Menopause
What is it about menopause that makes it so challenging to keep off the weight? It is likely a combination of factors related to menopause and aging. Have you been noticing a few extra pounds around your belly lately? Well, you will be happy to know that you are definitely not alone. One of the foremost menopause symptoms seems to be weight gain and a change in the overall shape of your body. Though you may not be so happy about this, it is important to keep in mind that this weight gain is normal and to be expected. About 90% of menopausal women gain some weight between the ages of 35 and 55. But you may not necessarily have to blame yourself for this newly acquired weight – research now shows that weight gain during menopause is caused by shifts in your hormones, not greedy eating says Sports Nutritionist Krupali Shah
What you need to know about Menopause!!
Weight gain, especially around the abdomen, is one of the top complaints women have. But beyond vanity concerns, there are health risks associated with having an extra layer of padding around the waist. Belly fat is a sign of visceral fat around vital organs and increases a person’s risk for obesity-related illness. Before menopause, women are predisposed to gain weight in their hips and legs (i.e., become pear shaped), but afterward the drop in estrogen can redirect body fat distribution toward the abdomen. Unfortunately, from a health perspective, your midsection is the worst place you can gain fat. Research shows that having a waist size measuring more than 33 inches—no matter how much you weigh—increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. Throughout your reproductive years, for two weeks before a period, your body burns an extra 200 to 300 calories per day in preparation for menstruation. That’s a lot of free calorie burn — without having to do any extra physical activity! Once those periods stop, you no longer get that “freebie” for two weeks every month. So after menopause sets in, you have to find other ways to burn those calories in order to maintain your weight. Genetic factors also might 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. Sometimes factors such as the stress of children leaving — or returning — home, divorce, the death of a spouse, or other life changes might change your diet or exercise habits and contribute to menopause weight gain.
Bone strength depends on bone tissue density and structure. Reduced amounts of minerals in the bone and slower production or replacement of bone cells weakens bones.This happens to everybody as they age but the change is faster in women after the menopause. This is why one in three women over-50 has osteoporosis compared with only one in twelve men. Osteoporosis increases the risk of breaking bones, especially those in the wrist, hip or spine. One in seven British women breaks a hip after the menopause.
Menopause and its effect on skin
Estrogen stimulates maturation of a girl’s body at puberty. It helps keep a woman’s bones strong. Another thing estrogen does is stimulate the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils. That’s why, as menopause approaches and estrogen production diminishes, dry, itchy skin becomes very common. That reduction of estrogen, and the changing ratios of hormones in your body, don’t just slow down your body’s oil production, they also reduce your body’s ability to retain moisture.While a parched t-zone or flakey elbows may be the first places you notice the changes,
Sagging Skin and Wrinkles
Estrogens stimulate fat deposits over the female body; as estrogen levels drop during menopause, fat deposits tend to become redistributed and often concentrated over the abdomen and/or on the thighs and buttocks. The result is a loss of supportive fat below the skin of the face, neck, hands and arms; this allows sagging wrinkles to appear, and the skin over these areas is less easily compressed, as it loses its mobility. Also, fat deposits are reduced in the breasts, resulting in loss of turgor, which causes the breasts to begin to sag and flatten.
Hot flashes are typically defined by a strong sense of warmth in the skin, (mainly the face), followed by excessive sweating. It had long been thought that hot flashes were caused directly by the abrupt lowering of B-Estradiol levels, but we now know that a woman’s sympathetic nervous system is more active after menopause because of low estrogen, causing the dilation of skin arterioles and sweating, as well as the rise in body temperature and an increase in heart rate. Hour-to-hour changes in the secretion of the Luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland of post-menopausal women have also been associated with hot flashes.
Estrogens also temper melanin production. That is, estrogen exerts a regulatory effect on the production of melanin; it keeps it under control. In areas of the skin that have been exposed to UV rays over the years, as menopause arrives, melanin synthesis increases (due to lack of regulation by estrogen). This can result in brown “age spots” appearing on the face, hands, neck, arms and chest of many women.
Hairloss During Menopause
Hair loss after menopause, also known as alopecia, means that a woman is losing more hair than usual. A typical hair grows approximately 1/4 of inch per month, and continues growing for up to 6 years before it falls out and is replaced with another hair. Hair loss after menopause occurs when the amount of hair falling out is more than the amount being produced. Not many people are aware of this fact but all women will experience some degree of hair loss or thinning at some point during their life, and two-thirds of women will be affected by severe hair loss after menopause, or hair thinning. However, the good news is that hair loss after menopause does not usually result in complete baldness. Instead, most women suffer hair thinning, which is a loss of hair density that causes patchy areas in the scalp as opposed to total hair loss after menopause. Uncontrolled and excessive hair loss after menopause can be very hard to deal with given the profound physical changes a woman has already experienced during menopause. Thus, understanding why hair loss after menopause occurs will help women to feel more in control of the situation they face. Physical causes of hair loss after menopause, namely hormonal imbalance, are most common. Testosterone is the main hair-producing hormone in your body but a hormone deriving from testosterone counteracts its hair-producing activity. The DHT hormone (derived from testosterone) is the one in charge of disrupting hair production in certain areas of the body, especially the head. However, although DHT is produced with testosterone, it is controlled by estrogen. So, when women are younger, estrogen and testosterone hormones are balanced, and so DHT is controlled. But as women approach menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate leaving DHT production unrestrained which results in hair loss after menopause.
While bloating can occur as a result of such factors as diet or stress, the most likely cause for menopausal women is a fluctuation in hormones, particularly estrogen.Estrogen is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, it has an effect on the retention of water that occurs naturally as part of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women tend to retain more in the days leading up to menstruation as a result of the rising estrogen levels. When estrogen levels become erratic during perimenopause, so does the incidence of water retention, leading to bloating. In addition, estrogen influences the production of bile, a substance produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder that aids in digestion. Bile acts as a lubricant in the intestines. When estrogen levels decrease as a result of menopause, this in turn leads to a decrease in bile production. Stools in the small intestine can become dry, hard, and accumulate due to the lack of lubrication, leading to the sensation of constipation and bloating. Aside from water retention and decreased bile production, the other most common cause of bloating is the prominence of intestinal gas. Anywhere from 30-60% of menopausal women report an increase in gas during this time period, leading researchers to believe that hormonal fluctuations also play a role in the production of gas.
Mood swings and Anxiety
For women in their 40s and 50s who are going through menopause, one of the most common causes of anxiety is decreased estrogen levels. Estrogen declines during perimenopause, or the time before menopause, as the body prepares to cease egg development and menstruation. Scientists have discovered that estrogen has a significant effect on the brain’s regulation of moods and emotion. While this relationship appears complex, experts do know that changes in estrogen levels have a direct effect on the neurochemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and melatonin. Since all of these chemicals play an integral role in emotion and mood regulation, disruptions caused by estrogen fluctuations can lead to anxietyduring menopause. While the primary cause of anxiety in menopause is hormone-related, other medical and psychological conditions can cause anxiety. Women who are concerned about extreme and/or persistent anxiety should not hesitate to speak with a qualified medical professional.
1. Lifestyle Changes
Simple Lifestyle Changes This primary level of menopause treatment involves the least amount of risk, though conversely it requires the highest amount of self discipline. Many times some simple changes in lifestyle can reap huge benefits in fighting menopausal symptoms, and achieving a higher overall level of health. Fundamentally, techniques for stress reduction, such as yoga or meditation, combined with regular exerciseand an improved diet, can be a great natural menopause treatment. Diet in particular is key. Studies have shown that diets rich in foods that promote estrogen levels (such as soy, apples, alfalfa, cherries, potatoes, rice, wheat and yams) are great menopause treatments. Making lifestyle changes is easier said than done, especially if one is accustomed to a certain routine. These changes will help alleviate many symptoms, but they do not address the problem directly at the hormonal source and so further treatment may be necessary. Alternative medicine has proven to be an excellent menopause treatment in a safe and natural way.
2. Alternative Medicine
Alternative approaches involve little to no risk and can be an extremely effective way to treat all 34 menopause symptoms. This level of approach can involve several different therapies. Herbal supplements are the most prominent, though in addition women may turn to such menopause treatments as acupuncture, biofeedback, massage, aromatherapy, or hypnosis. All of these treatments can be valid and effective, though most women find that herbal supplements are the easiest menopause treatment to follow, as the other menopause treatments require a greater time and monetary commitment. In addition, herbal supplements are the only viable option to treat the hormonal imbalance directly at its source.
3. Drugs and Surgery
Interventions at the third level of menopause treatment involve the highest risk and often the highest costs. The most common drug therapy for treating the 34 menopause symptoms in the US is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This may be a quick and strong menopause treatment that combats hormonal imbalance; but, unfortunately, it entails serious side effects and increases the risk of different types of cancer among women, These three levels of menopause treatments are not mutually exclusive. A woman may use different menopause treatments at different times or any combination of them, depending on the duration and severity of symptoms. Today more and more women find that dealing with menopause symptoms is best accomplished via a combinationof healthy lifestyle and alternative treatments.
4. Avoid crash diets
A crash diet involves severely reducing the amount you eat over a short time. Your body responds to this reduced energy supply by using muscle tissue as fuel. Muscles use up a lot of kilojoules, so if you lose muscle tissue, you have further reduced your body’s ability to burn kilojoules. This means you are likely to put on more weight when you start eating normally again. Leptin (the ‘fat hormone’) plays an important role in body weight management, as it contributes to appetite control and metabolic rate. Studies show that leptin levels drop after a crash diet, which increases the appetite and slows metabolism.
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