A new study has found that a post-menopausal woman has significantly greater volumes of fat around the heart than her pre-menopausal counterparts.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, causing the deaths of 1 in 3 women. It is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. 42% of women who have heart attacks die within 1 year. Fat around the heart, and not belly fat as previously thought, is the biggest risk factor for a heart attack.
Studies show that a woman’s risk of heart disease intensifies drastically around the time of menopause, which for most women is around the age of 50. A woman’s risk of a heart attack increases thereafter for the rest of her life.
The purpose of this post is not to frighten you or to promote doom and gloom. It is to inform you of this newly discovered consequence of menopause, so you can take steps to prevent it. In this post I will tell you how to reduce this risk; but first I will explain why fat around the heart increases during menopause and how this increases you risk of heart disease.
Why fat around the heart increases during menopause
As you know, during perimenopause estrogen levels fall from their pre-perimenopause levels. By the time you reach postmenopause your estrogen level is a small fraction of what it had been prior to perimenopause.
Estrogen has many functions in your body. One of those functions is helping your body to manage where fat is deposited. Prior to the onset of menopause, estrogen helps your body to break down fat and dispose of it. The fat your body required was deposited below the waist, resulting in a pear body shape.
As estrogen levels fall during menopause, less breakdown of fat and less disposition of fat occurs. The fat that used to be deposited below your waist is now deposited around your waist, resulting in an apple body shape. It now it appears that falling and low levels of estrogen are also responsible for depositing fat around the heart during menopause.
How fat around the heart increases your risk of heart disease
Researchers have found that the amount of fat stored around the heart is a better predictor of heart disease risk than fat stored around the stomach or elsewhere. Previously it had been thought that belly fat and BMI were the best predictors of heart disease.
Heart fat is a layer or build up of fat behind the rib cage. You cannot see it. The volume of fat around the heart is linked to being overweight or obese, but even a thin person can develop heart fat. However, the more excess fat you carry, the greater your risk of having high levels of heart fat.
Fat around the heart releases something called cytokines, an inflammatory protein that causes buildup of plaque in your arteries. Exposure to these inflammatory cytokines leads to atherosclerosis which, of course, is the leading contributor to heart disease.
How to reduce the volume of fat around your heart
It is not possible to target fat loss from a particular part of your body. You have to target overall fat loss from your body. When you reduce the overall level of fat in your body, you will reduce fat around your heart as well.
There are 3 factors involved in reducing body fat
- The amount of physical activity and exercise that you do
- Your diet
- Stress reduction
Modifying these 3 factors to reduce the volume of fat around your heard will most likely will require a lifestyle change.
You need to adopt a physically active lifestyle for the rest of your life. A woman who is physically active will be doing many of the following activities:
- walk or ride a bicycle, rather than drive, when she needs to go to a local store
- deliberately park some distance from the entrance to the mall
- walk up stairs rather than take an escalator or elevator
- do housework herself rather than pay help to do it
- do regular yard or garden work
- go out dancing regularly
- take long walks
- do frequent bike rides
- swim regularly
- play 1 or more sports
- do a form of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week
In terms of diet, your diet must be based around eating real food. Real food, such as unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables, does not need labels. Eliminate processed food from your diet. It is loaded with added sugar, which encourages fat storage.
In terms of stress reduction, stress increases the level of cortisol hormone in your body, and cortisol prevents fat loss from occurring. It is important therefore to do one or more stress reduction techniques regularly.
This post has been reproduced with the permission of Menopause Matters.
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