Belly fat can definitely creep up on middle-aged women.
As I mentioned in a recent sharepost, an Australian study that determined that belly fat in women who are going through menopause is due to the body’s response to the fall in estrogen. There also may be a contributing factor to this shift of weight to the belly – stress. “Some researchers suspect that the drop in estrogen levels at menopause is also linked to increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes the accumulation of abdominal fat,” stated an article on the Harvard Health Publications website.
“Stress! Really???” you may be asking. But experts point out that stress really can play a number on your body. An article entitled “Stress and Stress Reduction” on the University of Indiana website noted that stress can cause the secretion of cortisol, aldosterone, epinephrine, norepinephrine and thyroxine. These substances that leads to an acceleration of heart rate, dilation of heart arteries, dilation of bronchial tubes, an increase in the force of contractions of the heart, an increased rate of metabolism, increased anxiety, increased respiration, decreased tiredness, decreased salvation and dilation of the pupils. Chronic stress can lead to a lower immune response, continual muscle tension and increased blood pressure.
And even though we don’t always acknowledge it, women – especially at our age – are often under a lot of stress, even though we may not admit it to others – or even to ourselves. Face it, stress often just accumulates for middle-age women due to a variety of issues – the economic downtown that’s led to lost jobs and less income, empty-nest syndrome as children leave home, caring for aging parents, as well as our physical changes and emergence of our own health issues. And often we don’t deal with the stress; instead it seems to continue to have a dull presence in our lives, popping up when a tight deadline or emergency rears up.
And serious health hazards have been linked to stress. “When stress is excessive, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure, also called hypertension, to asthma to uncles, to irritable bowel syndrome, Dr. Ernesto L. Schiffrin, the physician-in-chief at Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewis General Hospital and professor and vice chair of research at McGill University’s Department of Medicine, told the American Heart Association (AHA). Furthermore, stress levels also are believed to affect behaviors and factors that can increase the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.
It’s really important to find ways to lower stress if it’s a chronic situation that’s getting out of control. The University of Indiana website points to a decrease in heart rate, respiration, metabolism and blood pressure along with an increase in salivation, digestion and alpha brain waves. Furthermore, lower stress leads to feelings of relaxation and warmth.
So what can you do to lower stress? AHA recommends exercising, maintaining a positive attitude, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight as actions to take. In addition, you should avoid smoking and try not to drink too much coffee.
Medications, however, aren’t considered the best way to help people lower their stress levels. “Some people take tranquilizers to calm them down, but it’s far better to learn to manage your stress through relaxation or stress management techniques,” the AHA stated, adding that people who have severe anxiety should consult their doctor.
So while you follow the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations (follow a healthy diet, watch portion size, and get daily exercise) that I shared in the recent post about how to lose belly fat, you also need to find a way to lower your stress level. Your belly – and your health – will thank you!
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
American Heart Association. (2012). Stress and heart health.
Harvard Health Publications. (2006). Abdominal fat and what to do about it. Harvard Medical School.
Indiana University. (1996). Stress and stress reduction.
Published On: October 26, 2012