Menopause is a crucial moment in a woman’s life and usually occurs around the age of 50 and marks the end of the period when she can have children: Her ovaries stop functioning because the supply of female gametes is normally depleted. This is followed by hormonal changes, which usually lead to unpleasant symptoms.
These include weight gain, especially in the abdomen, and health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A new study published online this week in Menopause magazine suggests that prescription drugs for high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as antidepressants, are partly responsible for this weight gain during menopause.
Upper BMI and waist circumference
But how much of this weight gain is associated with the use of these drugs, and how much is due to the hormonal changes of menopause? To find this out, researchers associated with the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) have collected data from recently menopausal women who have participated in the Women’s Health Initiative. They measured body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference at baseline and after three years and compared the results while considering the medications prescribed to them, including antidepressants, beta-blockers, insulin, and glucocorticosteroids.
Based on these results, the researchers found that taking at least one of these drugs was associated with an increase in BMI and waist circumference in women who were taking them compared to women who were not taking them. They also found that taking these drugs led to an increase in the use of weight-loss products.
In addition, women who were taking antidepressants or insulin or a combination of antidepressants and beta-blockers, and women from racial and ethnic minorities, gained more weight.
Better risk assessment
According to the authors of the study, these results show that health professionals need to be more vigilant when prescribing medication to postmenopausal women. In particular, they must consider whether these prescriptions are absolutely necessary, whether there are other options or whether a lower dose can be prescribed.
“This study highlights the significant adverse health effects of obesity and the link between the use of weight-promoting drugs such as antidepressants, antihypertensives, and insulin and weight gain in middle-aged women,” said Dr. Stéphanie Faubion, Medical Director of NAMS. In addition to ensuring that these weight-promoting drugs are used sensibly and in the lower doses needed to achieve the desired results, emphasis should be placed on strategies to mitigate the lifestyle-related adverse effects, such as quality of diet, level of physical activity, and quality and duration of sleep”.