Postmenopausal weight gain and heart disease

Late- and post-menopausal women have significantly greater volumes of fat around their hearts – a risk factor for heart disease – than pre-menopausal women,. This according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study.

The finding, published online and scheduled for the Sept. 1 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, likely can be attributed to changing hormone levels.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, and it increases after age 50 – the average age when a woman is going through menopause,” said lead author Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “By showing that menopause appears to be associated with a shift in fat deposits that leads to more fat around the heart, we’ve uncovered a new potential contributor to increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women.”

It was long thought that weight gain in women during and after menopause was due to aging, rather than menopause itself. However, recent research identified changes in body fat composition and distribution due to menopause-related hormonal fluctuations.

For many, weight fluctuation was caused by yo-yo dieting, now many attribute it to hormonal fluctuations and the weight gain weight loss it is creating are causing significant heart related health problems.

Research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that gaining weight back after dieting is associated with negative long-term effects on some cardiometabolic  risk factors in postmenopausal women.

In this paper, published online by the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, lead authors Daniel Beavers, Ph.D., and Kristen Beavers, Ph.D., looked at how weight regain affects health risk in these women. The researchers looked specifically at cardiometabolic risk factors – a cluster of risk factors that are indicators of a person’s overall risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They include blood pressure, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose and insulin.

For women who had regained weight in the year after their weight loss, several risk factors were actually worse than before they lost the weight

“In this group of women, weight loss and maintaining that loss offers the most health benefit, but therein lies the problem,” Daniel Beavers said. “For most people, weight regain after intentional weight loss is an expected occurrence, and the long-term health ramifications of weight regain in older adults are not well understood.”

For the study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, the researchers evaluated 112 obese, postmenopausal women averaging 58 years of age, through a five-month weight loss intervention and a subsequent 12 month non-intervention period.

During the intervention, women lost a significant amount of weight, an average of 25 pounds, and 80 women returned for at least one followup measurement.

Weight regain status was based on whether a participant regained at least four pounds during the follow-up period. Two-thirds of the women fell into this category and, on average, regained approximately 70 percent of lost weight.

Beavers said these study results highlight the need for future research to better identify barriers to long-term weight loss success and develop effective strategies to promote the maintenance of weight loss in this population. 1

Questions ? email magazinercenter@gmail.com

Dr. Allan Magaziner & Dr. Scott Greenberg

1. http://www.newswise.com/articles/maintaining-weight-loss-as-important-as-losing-it-for-older-women