Study: Obesity significantly increases heart failure risk in women with late menopause

Older woman measures her waist circumference using a tape measure.

Obesity significantly increases heart failure risk in women with late menopause, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.  

Menopause typically occurs between the age of 45 and 55. Past studies show that women who enter menopause before age 45 are at higher risk for heart failure, but there is a gap in knowledge about the impact of late menopause—which occurs at age 55 and older—on heart failure. 

Researchers analyzed health data from nearly 4,500 postmenopausal women participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a long-term research study to identify associations between known and suspected heart disease risk factors and the development of heart disease in adults. The researchers studied four groups of postmenopausal women: younger than 45 years; 45-49 years; 50-54 years; and 55 years and older.  

Among the findings: For every 6-inch increase in waist circumference, the risk of developing heart failure almost tripled (2.93 times higher) among the women who entered menopause at age 55 years or older. Waist circumference did not significantly raise the risk of heart failure for women in any of the other menopausal age groups.  

Women with late menopause should be counseled to maintain a healthy body weight and prevent obesity to decrease their risk of heart failure, the researchers say. Their study was funded in part by the NHLBI.