Postmenopausal Weight Loss
— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
Managing weight is difficult and postmenopausal women, in particular, face unique challenges that can contribute to the frustration. Hormonal changes, reduction in spontaneous activity, loss of muscle mass and lack of sleep associated with menopause not only make it difficult for these women to lose weight, but it is likely that they may actually experience weight gain.
Even among female patients who successfully have lost weight in the past through dietary changes and physical activity, tried and true methods may no longer be effective. This group of women is three times more likely to have obesity and metabolic syndrome than pre-menopausal women. And weight gain can lead to increased concerns about health risks; This is justified as the risk for type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and oncological disease increases in postmenopause.
Additional weight is only part of the problem. Postmenopausal weight gain often settles around the midsection, which contributes to health concerns because visceral abdominal fat adiposity and a larger waist-to-hip ratio are risks for cardiovascular problems. A recent study shows that women with greater midsection weight have a 10 to 20 percent higher risk of heart attacks than women who are heavier overall. Throw in a few hot flashes and it’s no wonder that so many women feel that their quality of life is impacted by menopause!
There are no quick fixes for weight loss at any age and menopause makes loss even more difficult. While the same recommendations hold true for menopausal weight loss — that is, better food choices, increased aerobic and anaerobic exercises, and reduced alcohol consumption — an even more concerted attempt likely will be required. Incorporating additional small changes also can have an impact. Eating proteins and vegetables before starches at mealtime can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, helping to create a feeling of fullness for longer periods. And, simply standing more often can burn calories and possibly limit the effects of central adiposity.
For women with obesity, rapid weight loss through a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), such as the medically-supervised New Direction program, provides the necessary micronutrients and offer promising results though greater weight loss. This also can be the motivation needed for the lifestyle changes that become even more critical for postmenopausal women who want to lose or maintain weight. Physicians and health care providers are integral to this process because many women are uncomfortable discussing menopausal symptoms.
As we conclude Women’s Health Month, we iterate the importance of discussing weight with women of all ages to help them recognize the biological and environmental factors that may affect their weight, and encourage them to take steps to address their concerns before it becomes a more severe health issue.
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.