I haven’t changed my diet or exercise patterns, and yet, I’m gaining weight. What can I do? Do I need a special perimenopause treatment ?
As a woman ages, there are changes that occur in her body that predispose her to weight gain, even if she does not change her eating or exercise habits. With increasing age, there is increased total body fat, decreased lean body mass and decreased basal metabolic rate. There is also a change from the female body shape to the male body shape with its associated increase in waist to hip ratio. These subsequent increases in body fat and shape can be associated with increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Thus as a woman ages, it is important to monitor caloric intake, decrease fat consumption and increase exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic.
What are some other dietary changes to consider?
As we age, we feel less thirsty. It’s unclear why this happens, but it does. As a result, sometimes dehydration may occur, especially during the summer months. Decreased water intake may also be associated with constipation. In light of this, it is essential to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, even if you do not feel particularly thirsty. Increasing consumption of fiber through fruits and vegetables may also relieve constipation.
Should I be taking iron supplements with my vitamins for perimenopause?
With decreased or lack of menstruation, iron supplements are not as necessary as they were when regular menstruation was occurring. Therefore, many over-the-counter formulations geared for the menopausal woman do not contain as much iron as would a vitamin supplement geared for a younger or regularly menstruating patient.
However, perimenopause is often accompanied by episodes of irregular but very heavy bleeding. In those cases, vitamins with iron may be beneficial. However, this is something that should be customized for each woman and, therefore, should be discussed with her healthcare provider.
Are there any lifestyle changes which might relieve my symptoms?
- Stop smoking! Not only does smoking increase your risk for lung cancer and heart disease, but it also is toxic to the ovaries. Smokers may have menopause onset two years earlier than non-smokers. Smoking is also toxic to bone-building cells, the osteoblasts, so smokers also are at increased risk for osteoporosis.
- Layer clothing so that you can maximize comfort when experiencing a hot flush.
- Try to minimize stress since stress may bring on hot flushes. Meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques may help. At the Harvard Mind-Body program, we learned a very simple relaxation technique which can be performed any time and any place and need not necessarily interfere with whatever else is happening:
- Take a deep, cleansing breath in and out and then, breathing normally, count to yourself slowly from 1 to 10 and then back from 10 to 1.
- This “time out” may help to minimize stress and relieve hot flushes.
- Regular exercise may help to reduce stress and will help to increase basal metabolic rate, therefore helping with weight management. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises are important.
- Bottom line: Modify diet, decrease fat and caloric intake, exercise or increase exercise, and try some relaxation techniques.