he severity of key risk factors for heart
disease, diabetes and stroke appears to
increase more rapidly in the years leading up
to menopause, rather than after, according
to new research in Journal of the American
Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the
American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
The study also found that this pattern of rapidly
increasing risk factors before menopause appears to be
more pronounced among African-American women.
The risk factors, together known as metabolic syndrome,
include a large waistline, high triglyceride (a blood fat) levels,
low HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels, high blood pressure
and high blood sugar when fasting.
“Previous research showed that after menopause,
women were at much greater risk for metabolic syndrome
than before menopause began,” said Mark DeBoer, M.D.,
M.Sc., M.C.C., study senior author and an associate
professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of
Virginia in Charlottesville. “This latest study indicates that the
increased risk observed earlier may be related more to the
changes happening as women go through menopause and
less to the changes that take place after menopause.”
Researchers analyzed the records of 1,470 African-
American and white women participating in the
Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, a national
study of the causes and health effects of hardening of the
arteries. Participants were selected based on whether they
went through menopausal changes over a 10-year period.
Each participant was assigned a metabolic syndrome
severity score based on a formula the authors developed
that has been adopted by other researchers.
After taking into account hormone replacement therapy
and other factors that might bias results, the study found:
• Women experienced rapid increases in metabolic
syndrome severity during the last years of
pre-menopause and the transition years to menopause,
known as perimenopause.
• African-American women experienced a much more
rapid increase in metabolic syndrome severity before
menopause, but a slower rate of increase after
menopause, than white women.
• Overall, African-American women had higher rates of
metabolic syndrome, particularly high blood pressure
and high fasting blood sugar levels, than white women
at the beginning of the study.
These findings confirm many previous studies that
show African-American women are at greater risk for
cardiovascular disease and diabetes than white women.
“Of course, you could argue that all of us should
be eating better and making sure we’re getting enough
exercise,” he said. “That’s definitely true, but the years
transitioning to menopause may represent a ‘teachable
moment,’ when patients are especially receptive to learning
and putting into practice healthy habits that can make a
difference in their cardiovascular disease risk.”
Source: American Heart Association News
HEART DISEASE, STROKE
RISK FACTORS MAY INCREASE
IN SEVERITY BEFORE MENOPAUSE