Stress And Menopause - Why Midlife Stress Goes Straight To Your Waistline

How are stress and menopause linked, and why do women under stress put on weight around the middle?


Midlife is not the easiest phase for many women. Sometimes it can feel as if stress and the change of life go hand in hand, as your body starts to behave unpredictably just at the moment that life comes up with some real challenges.

Women in their forties and fifties are often working at full-throttle. Many still have children at home. Those who came to motherhood relatively late can find themselves dealing with toddler tantrums and hot flushes all at the same time, while those with older families have teenage shenanigans to contend with.

Other problems you might face include caring for your own elderly parents, worries over your own or your partner's health or work, financial problems, relationship difficulties, coping alone if you don't have a partner... It's quite a list, and all of it is happening at the same time as you cope with the natural processes of getting older, including menopause stress.

Women and stress

Apple-shaped body in menopause
ŠIstockphoto.com/Stefan Witas

Women have a tough time of it, when it comes to coping with stress.

The hormone serotonin helps keep your moods stable and assists you in coping with midlife stress. But as a woman, not only do you use serotonin more quickly than a man does, you produce this vital neurotransmitter more slowly as well.

This can leave you short of serotonin at a time of life when you have a lot of stresses to balance, making you more prone to menopause depression or anxiety attacks.

Oestrogen is another factor, because it helps to control the production of serotonin, so when estrogen levels fall, serotonin falls as well, making you vulnerable when stress and menopause strike at the same time.

How does stress and menopause affect you?

Although a certain amount of stress can help you to achieve your goals and perform better, too much stress affects health negatively. It's easy for the symptoms of stress to be overlooked, but it's not a good idea to keep going regardless of how stressed you're feeling.

Stress suffered by midlife women leads to overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol, which can have a serious impact on your health, making it more likely that you'll:

- experience menopausal weight gain

- have reduced bone density

- suffer from aches and pains in joints and spine

- become more vulnerable to infections

- develop ailments such as migraines, acid reflux and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

It's not an appealing prospect, which is why you should take stress and menopause seriously. There are many useful ways to relieve stress, and it shouldn't be too hard to find the stress-reducing techniques that are right for you. Don't delay - your health, weight and wellbeing depend on reducing your stress levels as much as you can.

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