Women officially hit menopause after 12 months without menstruating, at the average age of 51, according to the Mayo Clinic. It signifies the permanent end to a woman's fertility. It is caused by a decrease in estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones needed for reproduction. Women may experience a number of different symptoms, including night sweats, hot flashes and weight gain.
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Menopause and Weight
Women in their forties and fifties find it harder to lose weight. This is because of the decrease in hormone levels and the slowing of the metabolism, according to the American Dietetic Association. In addition, women lose muscle mass as they age, further lowering their metabolism. Women in their forties and fifties also tend to be less active, and may be consuming more calories than their body's need.
When estrogen levels decrease, a woman's risk for cardiovascular disease increases, says the Mayo Clinic, and weight gain only adds to the risk. In addition to cardiovascular disease, excess weight places a woman at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, women who gain 20 pounds after menopause increase their risk of breast cancer by 20 percent, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Menopause and Diet
To prevent menopausal weight gain, women may need to decrease their overall caloric intake by 200 to 400 calories a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Women who decrease their caloric intake need to make the most out of the foods they choose in order to meet their nutrient needs. The American Dietetic Association says women need to eat fewer processed foods and instead choose more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and low-fat and fat free dairy products.
Tips for Controlling Appetite
Menopausal women may have a difficult time controlling their appetite after reducing their calorie intake. Women may be able to help control hunger by eating foods high in fiber. Foods high in fiber take longer to digest and prolong the feeling of fullness. Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. When feeling hungry, women should drink a glass of water and wait twenty minutes to see if the hunger has passed. Menopausal women should also eat slowly, says the dietitian information website RD411, to give the brain time to recognize satiety. And most importantly, women should eat regular meals and snacks to prevent severe hunger and overeating.
Menopausal women who control their hunger and lose weight often experience a rise in self-esteem. The weight loss can increase quality of life and limit the risk of chronic illness. In addition, women who lose the weight after menopause decrease their risk for breast cancer, says the American Dietetic Association.