Pear-shaped Body in Postmenopausal Women Better for CVD Risk

Postmenopausal women who have pear-shaped bodies (compared to an “apple” shape) tended to have fewer heart and circulatory problems.

A new study in the European Heart Journal, the first to look at the location of stored fat and its association with cardiovascular disease (CVD) in postmenopausal women, included 2,683 postmenopausal women with normal body mass index (BMI) from the Women’s Health Initiative with no identified CVD at baseline. The researchers hypothesized that body fat deposits in certain regions were associated with an altered risk for CVD. The researchers ascertained incident CVD events (coronary heart disease, and stroke). There was a median of 17.9 years of follow-up.

According to the results, neither whole-body fat mass nor fat percentage was associated with increased CVD risk, even after adjustment for demographics, lifestyle, and other clinical risk factors. A higher percent of trunk fat was linked with increased CVD risk (highest vs. lowest quartile HR=1.91; 95% CI, 1.33 to 2.74; P<0.001 for trend), while higher percent leg fat was linked with a decreased risk of CVD (highest vs. lowest quartile HR=0.62; 95% CI, 0.43 to 0.89; P=0.008 for trend). The relationship between high percent trunk fat and CVD risk remained after adjustment for waist-to-hip ratio or waist circumference.

“Our findings suggest that postmenopausal women, despite having normal weight, could have varying risk of cardiovascular disease because of different fat distributions around either their middle or their legs,” Dr. Quibin Qi, associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said of the results in a press release. “In addition to overall body weight control, people may also need to pay attention to their regional body fat, even those who have a healthy body weight and normal BMI.”

Dr. Qi added that study participants had did have relatively higher fat mass in the trunk and leg regions.

“Whether the pattern of the associations could be generalizable to younger women and to men who had relatively lower regional body fat remains unknown,” Dr. Qui said.

Eric Raible is editor of the Cardiology section of DocWire News and has more than a decade’s worth of experience in covering and publishing in the cardiology space. Eric has previously served as a founding editor of CardioSource WorldNews, and is a former staff writer and editor of Cardiology Today.