The buildup of stomach fats throughout menopause will increase the danger of coronary heart illness
According to a new analysis from the University of Pittsburgh, women who accumulate belly fat during menopause are at higher risk of heart disease. This study shows that measuring waist circumference during preventive health appointments might be a better indicator of risk of heart disease than weight or BMI.
Study lead author Samar El Khoudary explains how the time has come for the healthcare industry to change gears as they think about the risk of heart disease in women. This is especially important as you are approaching and going through menopause. El Khoudary and her team wanted to find out how much fat a woman does not carry, but where it is carried.
For the study, researchers looked at data on 362 women from Pittsburgh and Chicago who participated in the Study on Women’s Health Nationwide (SWAN). On average, all participants were 51 years old when their visceral adipose tissue (fat that surrounds the abdominal organs) was measured by CT. The thickness of the internal carotid artery in her neck was also measured by ultrasound in some places during the study.
It has been found that the thickness of the carotid artery is an early indicator of heart disease.
It was found that for every 20% increase in abdominal fat, the thickness of the carotid artery increased by 2%, regardless of total weight, BMI, and other various risk factors associated with heart disease. Belly fat accelerated sharply on average within two years prior to the participants’ last period and continued to grow more gradually after the transition into menopause.
It is well known that the fat surrounding the abdominal organs is related to greater secretion of toxic molecules that can be harmful to cardiovascular health.
Saad Samargandy, Ph.D., MPH explains, “Almost 70% of postmenopausal women are central overweight – or excess midsection. Our analysis showed an accelerated increase in abdominal visceral fat during the menopausal transition of 8% per year, regardless of the chronological aging. “
In the past, there was a disproportionate focus on cardiovascular diseases as well as BMI and weight. The traditional way of measuring abdominal fat using CT is expensive and could expose women to unnecessary radiation. By regularly measuring and tracking waist circumference, doctors were able to monitor whether the increase in belly fat was accelerating.
El Khoudary and her team had previously published a new scientific statement for the American Heart Association calling for increased awareness of cardiovascular changes that only apply to the transition from menopause. She believes that early lifestyle interventions can reduce the risk of some cardiovascular events.
However, she warns that more research is needed to determine whether certain diet, exercise, or lifestyle interventions are more effective than others. The study failed to determine whether there is a clear cut-off point when waist size growth affects risk of heart disease.