Menopause is found to raise heart disease risk and is linked to more fat around the heart. The findings come from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where they found that menopausal women are at a higher risk for heart disease, compared to their pre-menopausal counterparts.
The findings stem from hormone changes that occur during menopause. It is well known that estrogen provides many protective properties when it comes to health, and so when estrogen levels drop during menopause, women can become at risk for an assortment of different health problems, including heart disease.
Lead author Samar R. El Khoudary said, “Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, and it increases after age 50 – the average age when a woman is going through menopause. By showing that menopause appears to be associated with a shift in fat deposits that leads to more fat around the heart, we’ve uncovered a new potential contributor to increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women.”
Weight gain is commonly seen in menopause, but previously it was attributed to aging and not menopause itself. Lately, researchers have found mechanisms, which occur during the menopause and may be linked to weight gain, but have nothing to do with aging. Fat composition and distribution have been found to be related to fluctuations in hormones instead.
No previous research has examined any link between changes in fat composition and distribution, and cardiovascular health until now. Dr. El Khoudary evaluated data, blood samples, and CT scans from 456 women who were not on hormone replacement therapy.
The researchers found that as the hormone estradiol decreased, there was a higher accumulation of fat around the heart. Even taking into account other factors that could contribute to fat around the heart, the relationship still remained.
Dr. El Khoudary added, “Developing prevention strategies to reduce cardiovascular fat in women at midlife may reduce their heart disease risk, especially knowing that the menopausal transition puts women at risk for excess fat around their hearts.”
“Previous studies suggest that reducing heart fat is feasible through weight loss or weight management, but these studies only looked at small numbers of people, and there have been no clinical trials linking cardiovascular outcomes with heart fat changes due to weight management interventions. Clearly, there is a need for larger scale studies to determine the best intervention strategies to help post-menopausal women reduce fat near the heart,” Dr. El Khoudary concluded.
Reduce risk of heart disease in menopausal women
Even though hormones may change during menopause, which may put your heart at risk, there are still many other controllable factors that you can consider in order to reduce your risk of heart disease. Such factors include:
- Preventing or managing diabetes
- Not smoking
- Controlling cholesterol levels
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Becoming physically active
- Eating well
- Monitoring your blood pressure
These factors are all controllable aspects that can increase your defense against developing heart disease. A family history of heart disease increases your risk as well, so speak to your doctor right away about what you can begin to do today in order to further lower your risk.