Cardio risks rise when menopause steals muscle and replaces it with fat

Anyone going through perimenopause, or who has reached menopause, knows that this particular time of life can be harder on your weight than that first year of college known for the “Freshman 15.”

In fact, even though women everywhere have been saying for decades that menopause makes them gain weight — FAST — no link had been proven between the hormonal changes of menopause and changes in body composition…

Until now…

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Fat mass up, lean mass down

Researchers at the University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences (UCLA) examined 18 years of data from the women’s health study.

In particular, they had access to data assessing women’s body composition changes from the time before and after their final menstrual period, accounting for race and ethnicity, as well as any changes caused by hormone therapy.

And, they confirmed what women approaching menopause have long suspected — menopause does make fat go up.

In fact, the study found that women going through perimenopause lost lean body mass and more than doubled their fat mass.

Yep, you read that right…

Not only do we women lose muscle mass thanks to menopause, on average, our fat mass doubles!

Now, that’s a scary thought not only because of what fat does to your health risks, but because having less lean body mass (or muscle) makes it even harder to lose weight. But that’ not all…

Cardio-metabolic risk

The research also showed that while body mass index or BMI is a very important clinical tool for predicting the risk of health dangers, like diabetes or heart disease, it’s pretty much useless in women during menopause and beyond thanks to these shifts in fat and lean mass.

This means that women can be at higher risk of chronic, deadly diseases and not even know it.

Luckily, there are things you can do to overcome or at least mitigate many of the symptoms of menopause, including that dreaded weight gain, including:

#1 – Eating for healthy hormones

Certain foods support your hormones during and after menopause, helping you to suffer less and live more.

These include fruits, veggies, and legumes as well as healthy fats like salmon, avocadoes and olive oil.  You should also get plenty of vitamin B6 and zinc in your diet from sources like grass-fed beef, chicken, yogurt and leafy greens.

Foods to ditch are the refined carbs found in breads, pastas, and rice.

#2 – Using Bioidentical Hormones

Dr. Michael Cutler, a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience, recommends using bioidentical hormones.

According to Dr. Cutler, “Large clinical trials have now verified that natural (bio-identical) estrogens and progesterone are effective for curbing menopausal symptoms. Even more importantly, they reduce diseases such as breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s dementia.”

#3 – Trying HIIT

Short, intense bouts of exercise like you would do with high-intensity interval training or HIIT can help you increase lean muscle mass and lower your fat mass to overcome menopausal weight gain. Try 15 – 20 minutes of HIIT two to three times per week plus two short weight training sessions each week for best results.

The link between menopause and weight gain has now been proven but that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with the extra weight those hormonal changes have caused. Use the tips above to increase your lean muscle mass and maintain a healthy weight, whether you’re peri- or post-menopausal.


  1. Study links perimenopause to accelerated fat mass gains, lean mass losses — University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences
  2. The diet that helps delay menopause — Easy Health Options®
  3. Don’t let ‘the change’ get the best of you — Easy Health Options®
  4. So you want to lose that menopause weight? — Easy Health Options®
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.