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    How body fat may signal risk of heart disease in menopausal women

    The volume of paracardial adipose tissue (PAT) in women who have gone through menopause may be an indicator of increased risk of coronary artery disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

    Researchers looked at women in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation from the Cardiovascular Fat Ancillary Study, which included 608 women. Of those 608 participants, 564 underwent electron beam computed tomography scan to measure their heart fat depot. Forty-two women were excluded due to being surgically menopausal, having undetermined menopausal status due to hormone therapy use, or were missing information on their menopausal status. An additional 44 women were excluded for missing coronary artery calcification (CAC) data or there was an inability to quantify heart fat depots as a result of technical problems.

    The 478 women who met all criteria for the analysis were aged 50.9 years (58% pre‐ or early perimenopausal, 10% late perimenopausal, and 32% postmenopausal). Researchers found that epicardial adipose tissue was linked with CAC measured, which was not modified by menopausal status or estradiol. However, menopausal status did modify the link between PAT and CAC measures (interaction‐P ≤ 0.01).Each 1-standard deviation unit increase in log PAT was tied with 102% higher risk of CAC presence (P = 0.04) and an 80% increase in CAC extent (P = 0.008) in postmenopausal women when compared to women who were premenopausal or in early perimenopause, independent of any study covariate. Adjustment for estradiol and hormone therapy weakened the differences. The link between PAT and CAC extent was stronger in women who had lower estradiol levels (interaction P = 0.004).

    Researchers concluded that PAT could serve as a potential menopause-specific coronary artery disease risk marker.

    Judith M. Orvos, ELS
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS, is a a BELS-certified medical writer and editor and an editorial consultant for Contemporary OB/GYN.
    Miranda Hester
    Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.


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