The "change" causes more than hot flashes and mood swings; it can lead to some very unwelcome changes in the number on the bathroom scale.
Weighing in at the doctor's office is something 58-year-old Lynn Wisenbaker of Dry Creek has always disliked. "I've always had to work at my weight," she said. "About in my 40s, it just became harder and harder, and fat started building up in places it didn't before."
Like Lynn, many women can start feeling menopause symptoms in their 40s, with the average age for hitting menopause around 52 years old. OB/GYN and weight loss physician, Dr. Jennifer McCann with Women's Clinic of Southwest Louisiana in DeRidder, says estrogen loss causes a deterioration of muscle mass, which slows down the body's calorie burning function. "When you're pre-menopausal, you tend to gain a little more fat tissue around the hips and as you go through that menopause transition, you actually gain more fat tissue around your waist and abdomen," said Dr. McCann.
To get to the root of the sudden weight gain, Dr. McCann says you need to factor in age, weight and gender to get the basal metabolic rate. "The BMR, basal metabolic rate, is the amount of calories that we burn in a 24 hour period just from breathing or our hearts beating," she said.
At the height of Lynn's weight gain, she felt worn out and frustrated. "Not much energy. You're tired, and I think it gives you some depression when you're overweight. You're just out of control," she said.
Regaining control of your pre and post menopause weight means knowing what you are putting into your body and how much you are working out. "They really need to write down what they're eating," said Dr. McCann, "they need to continue to work out, especially with some muscle-building exercises, because it's that muscle that's really going to burn those calories."
Lynn started working out with light weights, swimming and walking. She also cut out some unhealthy foods, swapping them for muscle-building protein options. "I feel much different," she said. "I have much more energy, and in the first two weeks I felt a big change."
Now 30 pounds lighter from her weight a few years ago, Lynn is not slowing down!
Menopausal weight gain increases the risk for a number of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart attack and stroke.