If you are approaching menopause and you have some extra belly fat, new research suggests you might want to shed some inches now.
Women who carry weight around their midsection during menopause may be more likely to develop heart disease even if their overall weight remains the same, researchers report.
For every 20% increase in belly fat, the thickness of the carotid artery lining grew by 2%, according to their study. The carotid arteries carry blood to the head and neck, and carotid artery thickness is considered an early sign of heart disease.
The new findings held even after the researchers controlled for other heart disease risk factors such as weight and BMI, a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, and it’s not necessarily your weight but where it goes that affects your heart disease risk, said study author Samar El Khoudary, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
Exactly what makes belly fat so dangerous is not fully understood yet. But “it has been shown that this fat is metabolically active and can secrete inflammatory markers that may raise risk for heart disease,” she explained.