Menopause signifies the end of the fertile cycle for women, sometimes bringing a number of less-than-pleasant changes.
Hormonal imbalances can lead to hot flushes, mood swings and other associated symptoms. And if you’re overweight you might notice these symptoms more profoundly, as obese women are more likely to experience a severe form of menopause; the higher the BMI, the worse the symptoms of menopause are likely to be.
This includes not only the hot flushes but also other symptoms, such as night sweats, bladder incontinence and aching joints.
#1 Reduced level of activity
According to a study, women who are obese also present a reduced level of activity. By maintaining a sedentary lifestyle, they are making the transition into the post-menopausal period more difficult.
The symptoms of menopause are worsened by the additional risk factors; it is a known fact that women who are overweight or obese present a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The authors of the study suggested that women should be encouraged to engage in more physical activities, so that they bring down these risk factors and also reduce the intensity of the menopause symptoms.
It is also important to point out that, apart from the severe menopausal symptoms, sedentary women also presented a higher risk for depression, anxiety and insomnia. Recognising such risks is essential, in order to meet the challenges of the menopausal transition.
#2 Excess fat makes hot flushes worse
The same study highlighted that women who are obese are going to experience more severe menopause symptoms. Hot flushes are among the most common symptoms of menopause; for a long time, it was believed that obese women presented a reduced risk for hot flushes, due to the fact that the excess adipose tissue stimulated the production of oestrogen. However, it was recently confirmed that, in obese women, hot flushes are actually more severe; this is because the excess adipose tissue prevents heat from leaving the body.
#3 High BMI, more severe urinary symptoms
The high BMI has also been found to trigger urinary problems, these being more frequent and intense in overweight and/or obese women. Among the most common urogenital symptoms, there was urinary urgency and/or incontinence.
Obese women also present a higher risk for vaginal dryness, this being directly related to the more significant hormonal imbalance. Why do such changes occur? Well, menopause is associated with urogenital atrophy, which involves both the urinary tract and the vagina. Moreover, the hormonal imbalance has a negative impact on a woman’s ability to control the urination process. Apart from the frequent urination, obese women present a higher risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs) and incontinence.
#4 Mood swings
Many women experience mood swings; these can be triggered by a wide range of factors, not necessarily significant ones. Mood swings are accompanied by feelings of low self-esteem, depression, anger and anxiety. In obese women, matters are worse. It has been confirmed that obese people are more likely to suffer from mood swings; menopausal women who are overweight seem to be the perfect candidates for such problems.
The same women are also at high risk for anxiety and depression, both of which can make the transition into menopause seem a lot more difficult than it is. It is important to recognise the connection between obesity, mood swings and menopause; if one identifies such problems at an early stage, better intervention measures can be taken and the outcome will be positive.
#5 Poor quality of sleep
Obese women often suffer from sleep apnoea, due to the weight gain in the neck and chest area; the respiratory function is compromised and, thus, the risk for sleep disorders is increased. On the other hand, sleep apnoea can cause daytime sleepiness, affecting the overall functionality of the person in question. The person enters into a vicious cycle, with sleep problems contributing to obesity and the other way around.
When proper intervention measures are not taken, the metabolism is impaired and the hormonal imbalance becomes aggravated. Even the ability to process blood sugar is impaired, with the risk for diabetes becoming considerably higher.
In conclusion, a high BMI can worsen the symptoms of menopause, making the transition into the next stage of life more difficult.