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Where women gain weight in middle age can determine heart disease risk

Tuesday 8th August 2017
Gaining weight around the midsection can pose a potentially significant risk to black womens heart health, according to new research. Image: janulio via iStock
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Black women who gain weight around their midsection in middle age are at greater risk of a build-up of excess fat around their hearts that makes them more likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or suffer a heart attack.

This is according to recent research carried out by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, who set out to explore how race, gender and age impact a person's risk of excess fat gathering around their hearts.

It was found that white women who gained weight all over in middle age were more susceptible to subsequent heart health problems, but for black women, putting weight on around their midsection was found to be the greatest risk factor for these health issues.

This was even found to be the case when other lifestyle factors were also taken into account, such as whether or not a woman smoked, how much she drank and how much stress she experienced in her day-to-day life.

To make this discovery, the team of researchers analysed health data - such as CT scan results and blood pressure levels - relating to 524 US women with an average age of 51 who had all enrolled in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation.

The research findings - which have been published in the medical journal Menopause - echoed a previous investigation conducted by these doctors into the main risk factors for excess heart fat and associated complications among men.

Lead author of the study Samar El Khoudary concluded: "We've now come to very similar conclusions that show excess abdominal fat is worse for both black men and women and a higher BMI is worse for white men and women when it comes to their odds of having more fat around their hearts.

"There is something going on here that warrants further investigation to determine why it is happening and what tailored interventions doctors may prescribe."

With this in mind, heart doctors treating middle-aged women may want to advise them of lifestyle changes they could make to reduce their risk of an excess build-up of fat around their hearts at this time in their lives.

Written by Mathew Horton

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