Even if you've never had a weight problem in your life, chances are as you approach menopause you will notice your waistline growing.

For some women it's just a little bit of extra flab, while for others it's a bigger pants size or two. What's behind this frustrating phenomenon, and does the increased belly fat cause any health problems?

The Menopause Weight Creep

Anyone who struggles with excess weight knows that the pounds creep on when there is too much calorie intake and not enough calorie-burning exercise. These are largely the reasons behind midlife weight gain, but there are other considerations as well.

Loss of muscle. As people age, their muscle mass decreases. Women lose half a pound of muscle every year after the age of 25. Since muscle is a big calorie burner, this decrease means fewer calories are torched in the normal course of a day.

Decline in hormone levels. Another issue for women is the natural decline in estrogen they experience as they move toward and through menopause. This hormonal dip is a big factor behind the belly-fat creep that occurs in a woman's late forties and early fifties; fat tends to be redistributed away from previous trouble spots such as the arms, hips, and thighs and squarely toward the midsection—even if the scale says you're not gaining.

Dangers of Belly Fat

This mid-section weight gain is more than just unsightly or uncomfortable. The problem with this kind of fat is that it doesn't just exist right below the skin. It goes deeper, collecting around internal organs. And it releases hormones that can cause a variety of health problems.

Experts caution that a waist measurement of 35 inches or more spells troubles for women, bringing with it an increased risk of illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes.

3 Tips to Banish Belly Fat in Menopause

Now, for the good news: You can do something about an expanding midsection. Here are three tips to keep your middle trim:

1. Clean up your diet. Reduce consumption of processed foods and cut down on sugar. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthful fats like those found in avocados and walnuts.

2. Rein in portion sizes—even healthful food should be eaten in healthful amounts. Think twice before reaching for seconds. Share meals in restaurants or get in the habit of asking for a take-home container.

3. Get moving. We naturally lose muscle mass as we age, but we can still add muscle, which helps keep your metabolism humming. Find an exercise you love and stick with it. Experts recommend cardiovascular activity (walking, gardening) for 30 minutes on most days and weight training exercises at least twice a week.




Mayo Clinic. "Belly Fat in Women: Taking-and Keeping-It Off." Web. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/belly-fat/WO00128/NSECTIONGROUP=2