Like most women, I’ve had a weight problem from time to time. You know the drill – the extra 20 pounds after the baby, the Thanksgiving 5 or Christmas 10. I never quite understood how one ounce of chocolate always managed to turn into 5 pounds of fat on my thighs!
Despite periodic fluctuations in my weight, my stomach remained relatively flat. Flat that is until menopause hit. Seemingly overnight, my stomach “blossomed” into one jiggling mass about the size of a good ripe watermelon!! It was as if all the fat were depositing straight to my stomach instead of hips and thighs or upper arms. What was causing this anyway?
According to the Mayo Clinic (See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/belly-fat/wo00128), women may gain weight and belly fat for a number of reasons during menopause. The most obvious reason is normal aging. As we age, our metabolism slows down and it simply takes more to get the extra weight off. For most of us, our physical activity also begins to decrease as we age. We sit at a desk all day at work. We are no longer chasing after toddlers at home. Face it, we just don’t get up and “move” like we used to! Heredity also plays a part in the development of belly fat during menopause. I took a good hard look at family pictures – my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother - and discovered that we had some “apples” in the family after menopause!
Another culprit during menopause is hormonal changes. The hormonal changes that we undergo impact the way our body processes and breaks down fat. The end result is more belly fat.
This belly fat isn’t just unsightly, it’s dangerous! The belly fat that we can see is subcutaneous fat. While unsightly, subcutaneous fat is not likely to cause you any significant health problems. The real culprit is something that we can’t see - visceral fat. Visceral fat is the deep belly fat that surrounds your internal organs. Visceral fat is a killer. This type of fat has been linked to the development of a number of diseases in women, including:
• Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
• Cancer (Breast cancer, Colorectal cancer)
• High blood pressure
• Metabolic disorders
How much belly fat during menopause is too much? At what point should you be concerned? Is simply calculating your BMI enough to determine if you have too much belly fat? According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to determine whether or not you have too much belly fat is to simply measure your waist! If your waist is more than 35 inches, then you have too much belly fat and your health may be at risk. (Note: Some research indicates that you may be at risk if your waist measures more than 33 inches.)
Simply measuring your own waist, in the comfort and privacy of your own home, seems almost too good to be true! Finally, an accurate test that we can do ourselves and won’t cost us anything! So, ladies, take action. Pick up that tape measure and measure that belly!
©2009 Mary Kyle. For more articles by Mary Kyle, please visit www.texpen.com.