Menopause occurs one year after a woman's final menstrual period, typically around 51 or 52 years old. In the early menopausal transition, there are irregular cycles with cycle intervals varying by seven or more days and occasional skipped periods.

In the late menopausal transition, which is about one to three years before a woman's final period, the menstrual cycle intervals lengthen to 60 or more days.

It's during this time that hot flashes occur along with weight gain.

For many menopausal women, that stubborn belly bloat is something they have trouble losing.

According to Jacquelyn Loughlin, associate professor in the department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Health at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, age, a decrease in physical activity and poor diet are contributing factors.

There are also changes in body composition with a reduction in lean body mass in women, along with an increase in fat mass, said Loughlin. Coupled with the increase in fat mass is a redistribution of fat to the central or abdominal area.

Women who get fewer than five hours of sleep a night are more prone to gain weight than women who get seven or more. There may also be alterations in the gut's micro biome that affect weight gain, which is under investigation, she added.

What women can do to reduce bloating

Loughlin said women need to increase their activity, incorporating not only aerobics exercise but also resistance training, which will improve their lean body mass and increase their basal metabolic rate.

Women need to reduce calories and adopt a diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high in fiber. They should eat more fish than meat and limit their intake of saturated and trans fats.

"We should avoid processed foods, lower our salt intake, ensure that we get enough sleep and we also need to recognize and avoid emotional eating, which could be triggered by stress, anxiety, depression, boredom," said Loughlin.

Some women may need behavioral therapies, seek out a health coach, trainer and nutritionist to help keep the weight off as well.

Quality of life during menopause

With increased longevity, a 50-year-old woman will spend about 30 to 40 years in menopause, said Loughlin. To optimize their quality of live in these years, they need to stay active, eat a healthy diet, which should include calcium and Vitamin D, to maintain bone health. Maintain social connections with family and friends because they are a woman's support group. Women also need to reduce their risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and cancer.

Loughlin said overweight women should always strive to lose weight because even modest weight loss of three to five percent is clinically meaningful, reducing cardio metabolic risk.

Lastly, menopausal women should focus on preventative health. This includes getting recommended cancer screenings, which includes breast cancer, colon, cervical, and skin cancer. They need to get age-appropriate vaccines such as flu, COVID-19 pneumonia and shingles. Look to identify any barriers and remove them so women can achieve a healthy lifestyle.

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