Release Date: 11/04/2016

The danger of being overweight and obese after menopause, especially in African-American women, was underscored by research recently released by a researcher at Memorial Hospital, a Care New England facility.

Charles B. Eaton, MD, MS, director of the Center for Primary Care and Prevention at Memorial, published research in the professional journal Circulation Heart Failure that draws on information gathered through Memorial’s participation in the ground-breaking Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study, which has continued for the past two decades across the country.

Dr. Eaton and his research team evaluated data for 42,170 postmenopausal women – 51.2 percent white, 33.6 percent African American, and 15.2 percent Hispanic - who were followed for 13 years as part of the WHI. They analyzed risk factors in the 1,952 WHI participants who were hospitalized for acute heart failure in that timeframe.

“Both types of heart failure we studied were more common in white women,” Dr. Eaton says, adding that the risk factors for hospitalization included current smoking, diabetes, hypertension, interim myocardial infarction, congenital heart defects, cancer, and age. “However, the risk posed by hypertension and obesity on heart failure was considerably higher for African-American women.”

The reason for this, he continues, is unknown. More research is planned.

“We do not know why being overweight and obese places African-American women at higher risk for heart failure compared with white women – even when adjusting for diabetes and hypertension, but differences in inflammatory obesity, insulin sensitivity and visceral fat distribution might play a role in these findings,” he surmises.

In August, Dr. Eaton received a $2.6-million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to launch the first and largest community-based primary prevention trial on the effects exercise and strength training have on heart failure in elderly women.

The five-year Women’s Health Initiative Strong and Healthy (WHISH)-2 Prevent Heart Failure Study – also an extension of the WHI – will examine the effects of physical activity both on the prevention of heart failure and the burden of the disease in women who were previously diagnosed with it.

The Center for Primary Care and Prevention, a collaboration between Memorial and Brown University, is dedicated to promoting research, knowledge enrichment and improving practice in primary care and prevention. Its research aims to help providers in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of various illnesses and their risk factors.

In addition to his research, Dr. Eaton sees patients in Memorial’s Family Care Clinic. For an appointment with him, call (401) 729-2769.

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