Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, and it increases after the age 50 years. This age also coincides with the average age when a woman goes through menopause. A new research has suggested that post-menopausal women have significantly greater volumes of fat around their hearts, a risk factor for heart disease, than their pre-menopausal counterparts. The findings of the study could guide on potentially life-saving interventions.
Lead author Samar El Khoudary, assistant professor at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in the US, said, "By showing that menopause appears to be associated with a shift in fat deposits that leads to more fat around the heart, we have uncovered a new potential contributor to increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women."
For the study, El Khoudary and her team evaluated clinical data, including blood samples and heart CT scans, on 456 women in the US. The women averaged about 51 years of age and were not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). As the concentrations of the sex hormone estradiol, the most potent estrogen, declined during menopause, greater volumes of cardiovascular fat were found. This finding held even after the research team took into account the effects of age, race, obesity, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, medication use and chronic diseases.
El Khoudary said, "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."
The study appears online in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism