Late- and post-menopausal women have significantly greater volumes of fat around their hearts – a risk factor for heart disease – than their pre-menopausal counterparts, a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study has shown for the first time.
The finding, published online and scheduled for the Sept. 1 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, likely can be attributed to changing hormone levels and could guide potentially life-saving interventions. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and American Heart Association (AHA).
“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,” said lead author Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “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 in women during and after menopause has long been attributed to aging, rather than menopause itself. However, recent research identified changes in body fat composition and distribution due to menopause-related hormonal fluctuations.
No previous study had evaluated whether those changes in fat distribution during menopause affect cardiovascular fat. Increased and excess fat around the heart and vasculature can be more detrimental than abdominal fat, causing local inflammation and leading to heart disease. Doubling certain types of cardiovascular fat can lead to a more than 50 percent increase in coronary events.
Dr. El Khoudary and her team evaluated clinical data, including blood samples and heart CT scans, on 456 women from Pittsburgh and Chicago enrolled in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). The women averaged about 51 years of age and were not on hormone replacement therapy.
As concentrations of the sex hormone estradiol – the most potent estrogen – declined during menopause, greater volumes of cardiovascular fat were found.
The finding held even after the team took into account the effects of age, race, obesity, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, medication use and chronic diseases.
“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,” said Dr. El Khoudary.
As a reduction is estrogen can lead to fat accumulation around the heart, we recommend increasing estrogen in the most natural way possible with the Manna Menopause Support supplement, trying to prevent heart disease. We also recommend the Manna Diet and exercise as part of the prevention regimen.