Heart Health

Menopause: Weight on Your Waist Hurts Your Heart

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For some women, menopause is more than annoying hot flashes and mood swings. Newly published research suggests those who accumulate fat in their abdomen during menopause are at a greater risk of heart disease.

It's an age-old complaint for many middle-aged women. No matter what they do, extra weight seems to settle in the middle. Scientists say that could be harmful to their heart health.

"We were able to identify the time point at which women start to accumulate the fat in the abdomen, in particular, women start to accumulate two years before their final menstrual period, Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor of epidemiology & Women's Health Expert at Pitt Graduate School of Public Health, told Ivanhoe.

The scientists used CT scans to measure the adipose tissue or the fat surrounding the organs in a women's abdomen. The researchers found the abdominal fat increased by about eight percent per year.

El Khoudary shared, "This increase happening during this period in particular put women at higher risk of developing carotid atherosclerosis."

The researchers also used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the carotid artery lining in the neck and found for every 20 percent increase in belly fat, the thickness of the carotid artery grew by two percent, an early indicator of heart disease. El Khoudary says the earlier women know their risk, the earlier they can adopt lifestyle changes to lower their chances of developing heart disease.

Researchers say their findings also suggest that monitoring waist circumference at home or at a doctor's office could be an important measure. Professor El Khoudary says women can use a tape measure at the waist about an inch below the lowest rib. According to the American Heart Association, a waist circumference of 35 inches or above for women could be an early signal of heart disease risk.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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