Health

The reason middle-aged women are prone to belly fat


Hormonal changes in a woman’s body during perimenopause lead to fat accumulation in the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.

Near middle age, many women have belly fat. According to Victoria Vieira-Potter, associate professor of nutrition and physiology at the University of Missouri, USA, these are normal physiological changes that are hard to avoid. “It doesn’t depend on your lifestyle, nor is it a sign that you’re letting your body go,” she says.

In the years leading up to menopause, levels of hormones like estrogen change, says Vieira-Potter. Research shows that the condition can lead to changes in body shape, leading to hot flashes, mood swings, irregular periods, or trouble sleeping. This perimenopausal transition usually begins between the ages of 45-55 and lasts for about 7 years, officially ending after the last menstrual period. At this time, women enter menopause.

Associate Professor Vieira-Potter explains: “Before the transition to menopause, women tend to accumulate fat in the thighs and hips, resulting in a ‘pear’ body. Meanwhile, pre-menopausal men tend to accumulate fat in the thighs and hips. fat in the abdominal area, has an ‘apple’ body”.

Professor Gail Greendale, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, followed the bodies of 380 middle-aged women for 12 years, spanning before, during and after menopause. Outcomes vary by ethnicity, but in general, at menopause, women begin to accumulate belly fat just like men. Their belly fat increased 17%, fastest in the years before or a year after their last period. Men also accumulate belly fat as they age, but the changes are more slow and steady.

Women’s belly fat increased 17% during perimenopause. Photo: iStock

Dr. Greendale and the researchers don’t know the exact reason behind these changes. But she warned that the accumulation of belly fat, especially the visceral fat that surrounds the organs, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Fat gain is not entirely due to menopausal factors. It also stems from mental stress, lack of exercise, improper diet and bad fat.

On social networks and media, many pharmaceutical companies advertise functional foods to help reduce waist circumference and reduce belly fat. However, experts do not know exactly how to improve menopausal fat storage. They are just beginning to understand how and why the human body changes during this period.

“I’m concerned that many women will feel depressed after maintaining a routine of exercise and diet and still have belly fat. They do everything they can but can’t solve that fat layer,” Ms. Greendale says, and at the same time be aware that excessive diet and exercise can also be harmful.

The right amount of exercise to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes and belly fat is 2.5 to 5 hours per week. A healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, and lean meats.

Physical activity also helps maintain muscle mass, improve bone health and insulin function. “Even if you’re exercising and still aren’t losing weight, your metabolism is working really well,” says Dr. Vieira-Potter. Exercise provides a feeling of euphoria, counteracting the physiological changes in menopause.

Thuc Linh (Follow NY Times)

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