Menopausal Women Often Face Battle with Weight

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • While not tied specifically to menopause, reaching middle age often causes women’s bodies to go haywire. One of the most common – and frustrating – issues that we often have to deal with is gaining weight, even when we’re eating and exercising the same amount as when we were younger.


    One of the issues that we face is that our metabolism slows as we reach middle age. Menopause seems to be associated with alterations in a woman’s body composition, causing more fat to build up, changing the distribution of this fat as well as lessening the amount of muscle your body has. Studies have found that about 50 percent of women who were between the ages of 50 and 64 reported doing any type of physical activity regularly while about 25 percent did high-intensity exercise.

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    And while many women worry about this weight gain’s effect on our looks, the more pressing question is what it may be doing to our health. Studies have found that having an elevated body mass index is linked with a variety of conditions, including heart disease, stroke, hypertensive heart disease,  atrial fibrillation, diabetes, osteoarthritis, low back pain, chronic kidney disease, and a number of cancers (colorectal, breast cancer, esophageal, kidney, gallbladder, pancreatic and uterine). Furthermore, the U.S. Burden of Disease stresses that having a high body mass index is the third-leading risk factor as people who are living with disabilities.

    Researchers from the University of Wisconsin recently studied physical activity and obesity by using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is a state-based telephone survey of people living in the majority of counties in the United States.  Approximately 3.7 million adults who were 20 years of age and older participated in the BRFSS between 2000 and 2011. The researchers also used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is a representative sample of the U.S. population. This particular study involved 30,000 adults who were 20 years of age and older in the study from 1999 to 2010.

    Using these data, researchers calculated the study participants’ body mass index based on what they reported as their weight and high self-reported physical activity (both any physical activity as well as physical activity that met recommended levels) that was reported in the BRFSS. Furthermore, they used the NHANES data in order to adjust their calculations based on self-reporting bias.

    The researchers found that there was an increased in physical activity from 2001 to 2009. Increases in the amount of activity were greater in women than in men, although activity levels were generally lower for women. The largest gains in activity levels were found in parts of Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and California.
    However, the report offered some startling news. The increase in activity levels actually mirrored an increase in obesity levels in U.S. counties.  Thus, only increasing physical activity isn’t enough to help people lower their weight although researchers point out that it should reduce levels of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

  • Some of the other findings were:

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    • Activity levels were generally worse along the Texas-Mexico border, the Mississippi Valley, parts of the Deep South and West Virginia.
    • The highest rate of physical activity for women (89.5 percent) was in Marin County, California. Other top counties were San Juan, WA (88.0 percent); Pitkin, CO (87.8 percent); Routt, CO (87.5 percent); Teton, WY (86.9 percent); Douglas, CO (86.3 percent); Santa Cruz, CA (85.7 percent); Island, WA (85.7 percent); Summit, UT (85.5 percent); and Summit, CO (85.5 percent).
    • The lowest rate for women was found in McDowell County, West Virginia (50.9 percent). Other counties were: Issaquena, MS (51.3 percent); Dunklin, MO (52.4 percent); Wolfe, KY (53. 8 percent); Owsley, KY (54.0 percent); East Carroll, LA (54.0 percent); Pemiscot, MO (54.0 percent); Lee, AR (54.1 percent); Mississippi, MO (54.2 percent); and LaSalle, TX (54.3 percent).

    Therefore, it's really important to make sure that you get enough exercise and also really examine your dietary choices in order to keep your body mass index in check as you age.

    Primary Resources for This Sharepost:

    Dwyer-Lindgren, L. , et al. (2013). Prevalence of physical activity and obesity in US counties, 2001-2011: a road map for action. Population Health Metrics. (nd). Speed up your metabolism at midlife.

Published On: July 15, 2013