Menopause is a natural step in a woman’s life cycle. Yet several body changes occur during menopause that can pose problems for women. Fortunately, lifestyle choices can help women diminish these common concerns, like weight gain and hot flashes.
Wiggling Out of Weight Gain
Experience among women varies, but menopause is often linked to weight gain and a movement of fat from the thighs and hips to the waistline. Some women blame hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but studies show the opposite. HRT seems to lessen the shift of fat to the waist.
Women are right to be concerned about weight gain. A recent study found that each two pounds of weight gained during menopause raises the risk of high blood pressure five percent. Menopausal weight gain also raises the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Excess weight and weight gain in adulthood are both strongly linked to risk of breast and other hormone-related cancers after menopause.
Weight gain at menopause can be prevented or minimized. Weight gain at this time of life is often related to a drop in exercise level.
Studies confirm the ability of exercise and healthful eating to help control menopausal weight gain. A recent five-year exercise and diet study found that 55 percent of the menopausal participants could maintain or even lose weight. The program involved a moderate exercise routine that burned 1,000 to 1,500 calories per week. Brisk walking for 30 to 45 minutes five days a week is one way to fulfill this goal. The women also ate a low fat diet that kept total calories low.
Staying Cool Through a Hot Flash
Hot flashes are another common menopause concern. A new study suggests that a vigorous exercise program and other steps to limit weight gain may reduce the tendency for hot flashes.
The regular use of soy foods might help, too. However, studies so far have found soy helpful only for women who experience more than five hot flashes daily. Their hot flashes are generally reduced by 40 percent. If soy does work, it is still unclear how much is needed. It is also questionable whether foods and supplements fortified with isoflavones are as effective as soy foods themselves. The safety of large amounts of isoflavones for women with breast cancer or at risk of it is unknown.
An herbal treatment that may bring relief from hot flashes is black cohosh. The federal Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) says that preliminary research on black cohosh is encouraging. Those with breast cancer should use it with extreme caution. Because black cohosh is sold as a dietary supplement, the FDA does not guarantee its safety, effectiveness, or consistency. Consumers may read more about this herb at the ODS website (http://ods.od.nih.gov).
The American Institute for Cancer Researchhttp://www.aicr.org