This Morning: Early menopause sufferer explains symptoms

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For many women, the menopause brings with it dreaded weight gain but a new study has found that it could be avoided if lifestyle interventions are conducted at a certain time. According to research, managing problems such as weight gain, related to menopause are “most valuable” during the peri-menopause period.

The study titled has been published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) focussing on the adverse symptoms of menopause.

As fat mass is gained during this phase, experts have identified the peri-menopause is a key transition point for these changes.

So, making lifestyle changes in the run-up to the menopause could be an independent factor that may influence metabolism.

During the study, researchers evaluated women at all stages of menopause to understand changes in resting and exercise metabolism in conjunction with body composition.

They also looked at their lifestyle habits in relation to composition and metabolism.

From their findings, they concluded that peri-menopause may be the most opportune window for lifestyle intervention because this group experienced elevated percentages of fat, lower lean body mass, and a shift toward central obesity.

With physical activity, it is recommended that menopausal women engage in resistance training, to help maintain lean mass which decreases during this life phase.

Moderate to high-intensity exercise is also suggested to maintain or increase oxidative capacity.

While the team’s findings suggest making these changes sooner rather than later will help, NAMS medical director Dr Stephanie Faubion, explained there is still more to be done in terms of research.

“This study underscores the adverse body composition and metabolic changes that occur during the menopause transition, which contribute to the increase in cardiovascular risk associated with menopause,” she said.

“Additional research is needed to determine whether there is an opportunity to prevent menopause-related shifts in body composition and metabolism with sustainable lifestyle interventions.”

There are many things women can do in order to manage their weight as they enter the menopausal phase.

Dr Zhaoping Li explained that primary care clinicians can help women take an active role in their health by providing education on diet and exercise strategies to prevent weight gain in midlife.

“The important thing is to not deliver passive messages,” she said.

“I am often very frustrated with primary care clinicians, including my own, who say that the weight gain is a fact of menopause.

“The message should be ‘yes, this is a physiological process, but it is a time for us to refocus on how we take care of our body.

“‘There are many things we can do about it.'”

There are many diets and exercise regimes out there targeted specifically to menopausal women.

But Dr Li emphasised that a one-size-fits all diet for women during peri-menopause and menopause is not realistic.

“We are learning more and more about individual differences in metabolism as we age,” she explained.

“That is why the National Institutes of Health launched the Nutrition for Precision Health study that will develop algorithms to predict individual responses to food and dietary routines.”

She suggested that in “another five or 10 years” experts will “have more knowledge on how to individualise management”.

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