The Number of Heart Attacks Among Middle-Aged Women Is Rising
It used to be that a woman’s risk for heart disease shot up around age 55, when the heart-protective effects of estrogen decline due to menopause. “But now we’re seeing more and more younger women with abdominal obesity and diabetes, which is accelerating the disease in their arteries,” says Steven Nissen, MD Chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “Traditionally, women stored fat in their thighs and buttocks, where it posed less of a heart health risk. But the type of fat that collects within the abdomen (think apple shape versus pear shape) produces proteins called cytokines, which travel to the liver, triggering the formation of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation throughout the body, including your arteries. The culprits behind all this belly fat? Too many calories and not enough exercise. Another cause: low estrogen. When levels drop after menopause, fat gets directed to women’s tummies instead of their hips, thighs and buttocks.