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Reducing health risks after menopause

Menopause can increase your risk of developing certain diseases and may be associated with weight gain. On this page, we will cover:

Does the menopause cause weight gain?

If you’ve noticed weight gain during menopause, you’re not alone. Some women going through the menopause report changes in body shape or weight. For example, you may find that you store more fat around your middle region.

What is a healthy bodyweight?

For most adults, a healthy BMI is 18.5-25 kg/m2. To check your BMI, use the BMI calculator on this NHS page.

You can use your waist circumference (size) to assess body fat distribution around the waist. To assess your waist circumference, measure around your middle at a point halfway between your lower rib and the top of your hips. The table below shows waist circumferences for which there is a low, high and very high risk of obesity-related health problems:


Low risk

High risk

Very high risk

White European, Black African, Middle Eastern and mixed origin


<94 cm (37 inch)

94–102 cm (37-40 inch)

>102 cm (40 inch)


<80 cm (31.5 inch)

80–88 cm (31.5-34.6 inch)

>88 cm (34.6 inch)

African Caribbean, South Asian, Chinese and Japanese origin


<90 cm (35.4 inch)


>90 cm (35.4 inch)


<80 cm (31.5 inch)


>80 cm (31.5 inch)

Excess weight gain and increased waist circumference can increase your risk of developing certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

A healthy, varied diet and regular exercise can help with weight management. Read more information on this topic in our section on balancing the diet.

Diet and heart health

As postmenopausal women have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, try to make sure you are eating a healthy, varied diet and include foods that can help support your heart health.

Top dietary tips for a healthy heart include:

  • Cut down on saturated fat and replace it with some unsaturated fats – swap butter, ghee, lard, palm and coconut oils for rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils and spreads made from these. There is good evidence that replacing saturated fats with some unsaturated fats can help to lower your cholesterol levels.
  • Aim for two portions of sustainably sourced fish a week – one of which should be oily (such as mackerel, salmon, trout or sardines). Oily fish are high in long-chain omega-3 fats, which can help to keep your heart healthy.
  • Watch your salt intake – aim for less than 6g a day. Check the nutrition label on foods and try not to add salt in cooking or at the table. Too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Include high-fibre and wholegrain foods in your diet like wholegrain breakfast cereals, oats, wholewheat pasta and pulses (beans, lentils and chickpeas). Diets high in fibre are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Reduce your intake of foods and drinks high in sugars such as cakes, biscuits and sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Having a diet high in sugary foods can lead to weight gain. Living with excess weight or obesity can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Think variety! Aim for at least five different fruit and vegetables a day - they are good sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals. A range of vitamins, minerals and bioactives found in a healthy, varied diet may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Do not drink alcohol to excess – adults should drink no more than 14 units a week, with several alcohol-free days each week. Too much alcohol, particularly binge drinking, can increase a wide range of heart disease and stroke risk factors.

Diet and bone health

A healthy, varied diet is important to keep your bones healthy and prevent the risk of osteoporosis. Two key nutrients to look out for are calcium and vitamin D.


The recommended intake of calcium is 700mg per day for adults. You should be able to get all the calcium you need from your diet; some good sources include:

  • dairy products, such as milk, yogurt or cheese (go for lower fat/lower sugar options) or calcium-fortified dairy alternatives
  • some green leafy vegetables such as watercress, kale, or broccoli (but not spinach)
  • sesame seeds
  • dried figs
  • fish that is eaten with soft bones (such as canned sardines)
  • calcium-set tofu

For more information about the calcium content of different foods and drinks, check out our Calcium Counts resource.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also important for bone health as it helps the body absorb calcium from foods.  Vitamin D is produced in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight.

The recommended intake of vitamin D is 10µg (micrograms) a day. Between April and September, most people get enough vitamin D through exposure to sunlight and dietary sources. Important dietary sources of vitamin D include:

  • oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, trout or sardines)
  • eggs
  • foods fortified with vitamin D by the manufacturer, such as some fat spreads, breakfast cereals and non-dairy alternatives

Between October and March, the sunlight is not strong enough to produce vitamin D in our skin. As vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods, it might be difficult to get enough from dietary sources alone. Therefore, it is recommended that all adults should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10µg of vitamin D during this time. People who have limited exposure to the sunlight (for example those who cover their skin or stay indoors most of the time) and those with a darker skin tone such as people from African, South Asian, or Caribbean backgrounds, are recommended to take a daily supplement containing 10μg of vitamin D all year round as they are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.

For more information about the vitamin D content of different foods, take a look at our Vital Vitamin D resource.

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient. However, very high intakes of vitamin A may have a negative effect on bone health. For women at risk of osteoporosis, it is best to avoid rich sources of vitamin A such as liver and liver products or supplements containing more than 1.5mg of vitamin A per day. Watch out for fish liver oil supplements, as they are often high in vitamin A.


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Last reviewed September 2022. Next review due September 2025.

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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any individualised advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.