New Heart Disease Risk Factor Found in Post-Menopausal Women
By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 14 Feb 2017
Image: Research shows an increased amount of fat around the heart can present a higher risk of heart disease in post-menopausal women (Photo courtesy of UPMC).
Researchers have found that an increased volume of paracardial fat around the heart poses a significantly higher risk of heart disease for post-menopausal women, as well as for midlife women with lower levels of estrogen.
The study included 478 menopausal women in the US who were enrolled in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) program. The women were 51 years old on average, and were not on hormone replacement therapy. The researchers used blood samples and Computed Tomography (CT) scans of the heart to determine the epicardial and paracardial fat levels.
The researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health published the results of the study online in the January 20, 2017, issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The results indicated that a 60% increase in paracardial fat volume was associated with a 160% increase in the risk of coronary artery calcification. There was also 45% more coronary artery calcification in postmenopausal women than in women before menopause, or those in early-menopausal stages.
Samar R. El Khoudary, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study, said, "For the first time, we've pinpointed the type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women. Clearly, epicardial and paracardial fat are distinct types of heart fat that are found to be greater in postmenopausal women for different reasons with different effects on heart disease risk--and thus should be evaluated separately when searching for ways to help women avoid heart disease."