Measuring woman's waist
Measuring woman's waist

Washington: Putting on weight can lead to heart disease among women. However, it is the location of the fat that matters most, with abdominal fat representing the greatest harm and not overall body mass index (BMI) when assessing risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), suggests a study. According to the study published in the journal ‘Menopause’ oestrogen protects women’s cardiovascular systems before menopause, which helps explain why the incidence of CAD in premenopausal women is lower than in men. However, as women’s oestrogen levels decline during and after menopause, the incidence of CAD in postmenopausal women outpaces similarly aged men.

“The findings of this study are consistent with what we know about the detrimental effects of central obesity. Not all fat is the same, and central obesity is particularly dangerous because it is associated with risk for heart disease, the number one killer of women. Identifying women with excess abdominal fat, even with a normal BMI, is important so that lifestyle interventions can be implemented,” said Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

Obesity has long been known as a risk factor for CAD because it causes endothelial cell dysfunction, insulin resistance, and coronary atherosclerosis, among other problems. It also is often accompanied by other cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes.

In the past, it has been suggested that overall obesity (which is often defined by BMI) is a primary risk factor. Few studies have attempted to compare the effect of overall obesity versus central obesity, which is typically described by waist circumference and/or waist-to-hip ratio. These results are especially relevant for postmenopausal women because menopause causes a change in body fat distribution, especially in the abdominal area.

“The findings of this study are consistent with what we know about the detrimental effects of central obesity. Not all fat is the same, and central obesity is particularly dangerous because it is associated with risk for heart disease, the number one killer of women. Identifying women with excess abdominal fat, even with a normal BMI, is important so that lifestyle interventions can be implemented,” said Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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