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Status:Closed    Asked:Feb 18, 2013 - 11:51 AM

Can menopause cause weight gain?

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The simple answer to this question is no. The transition from pre- to postmenopause does not necessarily mean that a woman will gain weight. However, many women will experience visible changes with menopause that may include a thickening of the waist, loss of muscle mass, and an increase in fat tissue. Women who have never had a weight problem before or who typically gain weight in other areas, may experience a focused increase of body fat at the waistline. Weight gain is not a direct result of menopause but related to aging and lifestyle changes. A lack of physical activity and an increase in the amount of daily calories consumed are more likely causes. Additionally, the “sudden” weight gain many women report may be due to the new deposition of body fat around the torso. This redistribution of body fat causes an “apple” (male-type pattern) versus a “pear” (female-type pattern) shape, which elevates a postmenopausal woman’s risk for heart disease. A decline in estrogen allows the influence of a woman’s circulating testosterone to surface. This scenario allows for a more male-type body fat storage pattern. In other words, there is a shift in fat accumulation to the abdomen (as opposed to the hips and thighs), and an increase in blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels. All of these changes increase the risk of heart disease for postmenopausal women compared to women who have yet to make the transition.

The hormonal fluctuations of menopause cause a number of side effects including an increased appetite and, when paired with a lack of physical activity, a loss of lean tissue which, in turn, lowers metabolic rate. A lower metabolic rate can lead to increased body fat. Thus, weight gain after menopause is more likely in sedentary women. But keep in mind that weight gain is likely in any person who is inactive, regardless of any menopause-related issues or gender. A regular exercise program can help with weight management and help to decrease a postmenopausal woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease.


Feb 18, 2013 - 11:52 AM

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