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Menopause Belly Fat - What Causes It and How Much is Too Much?

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Like most women, I’ve had a weight problem from time to time. You know the drill – the extra 20 pounds after the baby, the Thanksgiving 5 or Christmas 10. I never quite understood how one ounce of chocolate always managed to turn into 5 pounds of fat on my thighs!

Despite periodic fluctuations in my weight, my stomach remained relatively flat. Flat that is until menopause hit. Seemingly overnight, my stomach “blossomed” into one jiggling mass about the size of a good ripe watermelon!! It was as if all the fat were depositing straight to my stomach instead of hips and thighs or upper arms. What was causing this anyway?

According to the Mayo Clinic (See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/belly-fat/wo00128), women may gain weight and belly fat for a number of reasons during menopause. The most obvious reason is normal aging. As we age, our metabolism slows down and it simply takes more to get the extra weight off. For most of us, our physical activity also begins to decrease as we age. We sit at a desk all day at work. We are no longer chasing after toddlers at home. Face it, we just don’t get up and “move” like we used to! Heredity also plays a part in the development of belly fat during menopause. I took a good hard look at family pictures – my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother - and discovered that we had some “apples” in the family after menopause!

Another culprit during menopause is hormonal changes. The hormonal changes that we undergo impact the way our body processes and breaks down fat. The end result is more belly fat.

This belly fat isn’t just unsightly, it’s dangerous! The belly fat that we can see is subcutaneous fat. While unsightly, subcutaneous fat is not likely to cause you any significant health problems. The real culprit is something that we can’t see - visceral fat. Visceral fat is the deep belly fat that surrounds your internal organs. Visceral fat is a killer. This type of fat has been linked to the development of a number of diseases in women, including:

• Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
• Diabetes
• Cancer (Breast cancer, Colorectal cancer)
• High blood pressure
• Gallbladder
• Metabolic disorders

How much belly fat during menopause is too much? At what point should you be concerned? Is simply calculating your BMI enough to determine if you have too much belly fat? According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to determine whether or not you have too much belly fat is to simply measure your waist! If your waist is more than 35 inches, then you have too much belly fat and your health may be at risk. (Note: Some research indicates that you may be at risk if your waist measures more than 33 inches.)

Simply measuring your own waist, in the comfort and privacy of your own home, seems almost too good to be true! Finally, an accurate test that we can do ourselves and won’t cost us anything! So, ladies, take action. Pick up that tape measure and measure that belly!

©2009 Mary Kyle. For more articles by Mary Kyle, please visit www.texpen.com.

Add a Comment6 Comments

You are so right, unfortunately belly fat is dangerous to our health! I did a review on a study earlier this year that showed that waist size was a predictor of heart failure among middle aged and older men and women. They found it to be true even if the people had a normal and healthy BMI.

So, even if you are a healthy weight, if you carry your weight on your belly it increases your risk of heart failure. It was a large 7 year study and is interesting reading.


It also has a video which shows exactly how to measure your waist size so you can monitor your belly fat.

August 11, 2009 - 1:37pm
Blogger (reply to Kellie - My Health Software)

What a great article! Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm writing some articles about heart health and came across that statistic about the waist in my research as well. It's definitely been a motivator for me to find some way to deal with my own "circumference" challenged waist!

August 19, 2009 - 12:41pm
(reply to Kellie - My Health Software)

I monitor my belly fat on a regular daily basis, LOL! Seriously, though, it has been a struggle to find what combination of dietary and physical regimen will work to reduce my circumference. It seems runners tend to focus on running, not so much on an effective cross-training program. I know that was my problem for the past few years. My trainer is taking me through a balanced program that I think will make a difference, as I was not as diligent about sticking to it on my own.

August 11, 2009 - 4:14pm
Blogger (reply to alysiak)

I'd love to hear about how your training program turns out and if it accomplishes the goal! I know that cross-training (particularly weight bearing exercise) is the only thing that makes a real difference in my cholesterol levels! :-) Let us know how it turns out for you...

August 19, 2009 - 12:43pm
EmpowHER Guest

I work out 4 days a week, 30min cardio and 30 min weights. I do not eat fast food or drink soda or alcohol, I am known in the office to be the "healthy" eater. I have never had trouble with my weight until this past year (menopause). Now I have a pouch for a stomach. I am wondering if the hormones i have been taking could be part of the problem?

August 10, 2009 - 3:01pm
Blogger (reply to Anonymous)

Does your story sound familiar! I did not take the hormone replacement therapy when I went through menopause so can't answer from personal experience. I know that several of my girlfriends did take HRT and they still got the menopause belly just like I did. I have not researched specifically whether or not HRT contributes to the problem but since much of the problems we experience in menopause are hormonally driven, it could well be that HRT is a contributing factor.

If the exercises don't help, I'd recommend talking to your doctor about it and see if he has other solutions. I'd also make certain your doctor has an understanding of the issues that surround women in menopause. Some don't and nothing is more frustrating than trying to have a discussion and get information only to have the doctor pat your hand and say "there, there, dear. these things just happen!" (That actually happened to me and I have a new doctor now!)

Girls... Do any of you have any other advice for our gentle reader?

August 11, 2009 - 8:55am
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