Falling hormone levels, specifically estrogen, stress and inadequate sleep make some menopausal women prone to weight gain, especially in their abdomens. Unfortunately, menopausal weight gain isn't just uncomfortable — it's hard on your health. Visceral fat that builds under the abdominal wall is particularly risky because it's correlated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes.
However, while menopause may be challenging, there are still things you can do to improve health. With an active lifestyle and a healthy diet, you can feel more comfortable during this stage of your life.
We naturally lose muscle mass as we age. If you don't replace that lost muscle, your body will have less muscle, which will slow your metabolic rate. Staying active in your 40s and 50s helps keep your metabolism humming.
Incorporate movement as part of your daily routine. The national Physical Activity Guidelines recommend aiming for a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity and include strength training exercises at least twice a week.
Not only will strength training replace your lost muscle mass, but it also helps to slow mineral loss in your bones which can lead to osteoporosis.
Most importantly, exercise should be fun. Pick activities you enjoy and get moving with friends and family.
The following foods are especially beneficial for women in perimenopause or menopause:
- Bananas. Bananas (along with apricots, avocados and sweet potatoes) are high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.
- Blueberries. This fruit is full of stress-snuffing antioxidants and vitamin C. Plus, blueberries are high in fiber.
- Dark, leafy greens. These vegetables are rich in calcium and vitamin K, which help support bone health. Women over 50 should aim for 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily.
- Salmon. Omega-3-rich foods such as salmon raise good cholesterol. Oily fish also are good sources of vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption. You need 600 IU of vitamin D a day — a 3-ounce serving of canned salmon supplies about 465 IU.
- Whole-grain bread and oatmeal. Studies show that soluble fiber may help your body remove cholesterol. The requirement for fiber decreases at age 50, so aim for about 21 to 30 grams of total fiber per day.
- Water. Water helps move fiber through your system, keeps you hydrated and may mitigate hot flashes. Drink plenty of it!
- Yogurt. Yogurt is calcium-rich and contains probiotics that may aid digestion. Choose low-sugar varieties with vitamin D added.
Menopausal women should watch their sodium intake and also limit themselves to one alcoholic drink per day. If you suffer from hot flashes, try cutting back on caffeine and spicy foods, which could trigger hot flashes in some people.
Have a Good Attitude
When menopause has you down, remember it's a temporary state. The healthy diet and exercise habits you put in place during menopause will keep you feeling great after the hot flashes, mood swings and sleepless nights pass.