Weight Gain and Race Can Affect Women’s Heart Disease Risk

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Women’s heart health is a growing concern in the United States. Research has recently shown that both women and their physicians are spending an insufficient amount of time discussing cardiac health, due to the social awkwardness surrounding women’s bodies. This can lead to a number of serious conditions going unchecked and increasing the risk of serious heart problems down the line.

A new study published in Menopause journal highlights another risk factor for heart disease in women – their race and where on the body they gain weight midlife.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health evaluated data from 524 women in Pittsburgh and Chicago who participated in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) study. They found that African American women who put on weight in their midsection during midlife were more likely to also gather fat around their hearts. Whereas for Caucasian women, their chances of a fatty heart increase when they gain weight all over.

“Excess fat around the heart, in both men and women, is an evolving risk factor for heart disease. But how can clinicians see it at a regular physical? They can’t without a special heart scan,” said senior author Samar El Khoudary, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at University of Pittsburgh Public Health. “This study, coupled with our previous study in men, gives doctors another tool to evaluate their patients and get a better sense of their heart disease risk. It also may lead to suggestions for lifestyle modifications to help patients lessen that risk.”

Taking into consideration a number of outside factors – lifestyle and environmental – such as smoking, alcohol consumption, financial strain, the researchers deduced that the more fat a woman carries overall, the greater the risk of a fatty heart. Fat close to the heart pushes inflammatory markers directly into the heart tissue which is detrimental as it expands.

“We’ve now come to very similar conclusions that show excess abdominal fat is worse for both African American men and women, and a higher BMI is worse for Caucasian men and women when it comes to their odds of having more fat around their hearts,” said El Khoudary, who noted that the current analysis could not assess changes over time. “There is something going on here that warrants further investigation to determine why it is happening and what tailored interventions doctors may prescribe to help their patients lower their risk.”

This aligns with research out of Loughborough University, UK, published earlier this year that found those with excess abdominal weight – men or women, regardless of ethnicity – were at an increased risk of death in any form.

Successful ways to reduce bulk from the midsection are part of the clinic’s nutritional program, and include:

  • removing sugar / grains from diet
  • eating more healthy high-fat foods and green vegetables

Call today to schedule an appointment to talk with one of our acupuncturists about healthy ways to lose weight, so you can avoid cardiac risks.

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