Menopause, sometimes referred to as the change of life, is a normal, natural part of every woman’s life cycle. Menopause is the stage of life when female fertility ends. It is marked as occurring once a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. A number of symptoms may accompany the change of life including hot flashes, night sweats and weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
Menopause represents the time in a woman’s life when she is no longer fertile. Her ovaries no longer release mature eggs, the levels of her sex hormones drop and her monthly menstrual period stops. She is no longer able to get pregnant. Most American women enter menopause in their mid to late 40s through their early 50s, with the national average age being 51 years.
Women may react differently to the change of life. Some women experience severe hot flashes, mood swings and night sweats. Others notice little difference other than the loss of their monthly period. Common symptoms of menopause may include trouble sleeping, fatigue, loss of breast fullness, thinning hair, changes in sexual appetite and increased fat around the abdomen.
There is conjecture that the changes in hormone levels common during menopause may contribute to increased abdominal fat and weight gain, but there is little evidence to support that theory, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). While it is not uncommon for women to put on an additional pound each year between their mid-40s and mid-50s, the NAMS notes this weight gain is more likely to result from diet and exercise choices — along with the natural aging process — rather than from menopause.
Menopausal women tend to exercise less than younger women, which results in the lose of muscle mass and a corresponding increase in body fat, according to MayoClinic.com. Women can avoid putting on weight during their menopausal years by paying careful attention to their diet and by adding weight-bearing exercises to their regular routine.
Women who maintain a healthy weight during their menopausal years may avoid some of the health problems associated with excess weight gain, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Additional weight gain after menopause may contribute to an increased for stroke, heart disease, colorectal cancer and breast cancer, according to MayoClinic.com.