The extra weight gain around your internal organs can boost body-wide inflammation and increase your risk for disease
Q: I'm a year past menopause and for the first time I have belly fat. I've also gained weight. How can I reverse this trend and lose the fat? — Lanny F., Portland, OR
You're not alone; almost 75% of women over age 55 in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Combating that is a priority for maximizing your length and — most importantly — your quality of life.
Why You May Gain Fat After Menopause
One of the reasons older women gain weight is that blood levels of estradiol, a form of estrogen, decline measurably after menopause. That change in estradiol also changes one of its metabolites — testosterone (yes, women have testosterone). Together they alter how you burn calories and manage fat. Researchers have found, however, that hormone levels aren't the only thing in decline.
A study in the International Journal of Obesity tracked 158 healthy premenopausal women, 43 and older, for four years. The researchers found that women who became menopausal were getting half as much physical activity as they had in the four years prior to menopause. And while everyone in the study added visceral belly fat, post-menopausal women added the most.
Risks of Post-Menopausal Belly Fat
That belly fat, accumulating around your internal organs and boosting body-wide inflammation, ups your risk for diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and colorectal and breast cancer — not to mention depression, a decreased sex life and digestive woes.
How to Finally Get Rid of It
What can you do about it? A lot. You can rebuild muscle mass with 20-30 minutes of resistance and strength training two to three times a week and get 150+ minutes of high-intensity interval cardio exercise weekly, which stokes your metabolism. And you can upgrade your diet by eliminating ultra-processed foods, enriched flours, partially hydrogenated oils, and saturated and trans fats. That reduces fat-storing inflammation.