New research shows that women who suffer from obesity and enter menopause later in life may be at an increased risk of heart failure. Previous studies have suggested that women who enter menopause before 45 are also at a higher risk for heart failure.
This new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association helps to fill the gap in knowledge about the possible influence of late menopause, occurring at age 55 or older, and the incidence of heart failure.
After menopause, a woman’s body produces less progesterone and estrogen, a change that could increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart failure. Recent studies have shown that the average age for natural menopause has increased by 1.5 years over the past six decades. It is estimated that in the United States, the prevalence of early menopause (before age 45) was 12.6% and late menopause (after age 55) was 14.2%.
Previous research has found that women who experience early menopause have a heightened risk of heart failure. This serious condition is diagnosed when the heart cannot pump sufficient oxygen and blood to allow the body’s organs to function properly. The knowledge gap involves the risk of heart failure in women who experience late menopause.
Lead study author Imo A. Ebong explained, “We know that obesity increases the risk of developing heart failure, and the onset of menopause is associated with increased body fatness. In our study, we investigated if and how obesity affects the relationship between menopausal age and the future risk of developing heart failure.”
For the study, investigators analyzed data for nearly 4,500 postmenopausal women who were participating in a long-term research project by the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities. This study began enrolling participants in 1987 and focused on measuring associations between known and suspected heart disease risk factors and the development of heart disease.
All participants had baseline measurements taken and assessments conducted throughout the study. All women provided their age at menopause, and their weight and BMI were measured to be classified into one of three groups: normal weight, overweight, and obese.
All outcomes were adjusted for heart disease’s multiple health and lifestyle risk factors, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney function, prior heart attack, inflammation, and ventricular hypertrophy.
It was found that for every six-point increase in BMI, the risk for developing heart failure increased by 39% for women who had early menopause and doubled in women in the late menopause group. For every 6-inch increase in waist circumference, the heart failure risk almost tripled among women who entered menopause at age 55 or older. Researchers concluded that “The detrimental effects of obesity on heart failure risk was greatest among women who experienced late menopause.
A Healthy Heart
This study helps to show that a woman’s age when she enters menopause is an essential factor in helping to estimate their risk of developing heart failure. All women should share this information with their physicians and take steps to help ensure a healthy heart as they age.
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