Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Common Women's Health Myths -- Fact or Fiction? Part I

Think weight gain is an inevitable part of aging? Figure exercise is a waste of time if you can’t devote an entire hour to physical activity? Convinced statin drugs are the only way to reduce cholesterol levels? Based on an article by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP at Women to Women, here’s how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to several common myths about women’s health.

Myth: Menopause results in permanent weight gain
Fact: You might gain weight, but it's probably only temporary.
As estrogen levels begin to drop during perimenopause and menopause, the body relies on fat cells to produce low levels of the hormone. This estrogen helps protect your body from the abrupt hormonal transitions of menopause (think of it as softening the landing of free falling estrogen levels). During this time your body might store more fat (and make it more difficult to lose fat). Once the body has adjusted to less estrogen, oftentimes weight goes down again.

Myth: Stress makes you gain weight -- especially during menopause.
Fact: True!
Adrenal glands factors into menopausal weight gain. As hormone production in the ovaries begins to wind down during perimenopause and menopause, the adrenals contribute small amounts of estrogen and other sex hormones to help ease the transition. If you are under chronic stress (and these days, who isn’t?), the adrenals use all their time and energy to produce more and more cortisol, leaving less reserve for manufacturing sex hormones. Over time, this “cortisol dominance” leads to deposition of fat in the abdominal area and a hormonal imbalance which will lead to more weight gain, fat storage, and increased menopausal symptoms.

The key to successful weight management during menopause is to reduce stress and follow a healthy diet. This will give your body the best opportunity to function normally and navigate its own way through menopausal changes.

Myth: If you eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet, you will lose weight.
Fact: You might lose in the short-term, but you'll probably end up gaining it all back -- and then some!
Low-fat, low-calorie diets will trigger your body to store fat because it thinks it is experiencing famine. Also, low-fat, low-calorie diets set the stage for hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, food cravings, and binges. Yuck! What’s the best diet to follow for weight loss? According to this article, think Mediterranean (lots of veggies, heart healthy oils, not a lot of processed carbs) and you can’t go wrong!

More myths coming up shortly in my next post!

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