By Dr. Brian McDonough

KYW Medical Reports Sponsored By Independence Blue Cross

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is no doubt that it is tougher to achieve a healthy weight during menopause. Hormonal changes in menopause can lead to weight gain, but they don’t have to. You can keep extra pounds at bay by choosing an active lifestyle and a healthy diet. But the truth is that it is not easy and will take greater effort—so don’t get discouraged.

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Some of the biggest contributors to the weight gain are sleep problems which are common in menopause.  Falling levels of estrogen can cause you to collect more weight in your belly, and less in the hips and thighs. And one other surprising factor: loss of muscle. This has more to do with middle age than menopause. We all lose muscle as we age. If you don’t replace this muscle, you may gain more fat. This slows down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.

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Extra weight doesn’t just affect your body image. Carrying extra pounds also puts you at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. So it is worth attacking it.