Research

Roundup: Average American 15-17 Pounds Heavier Than 20 Years Ago; Latest on Role of Menopause in Heart Disease, Stroke Risks

On average, American adults have gained 15 to 17 pounds over the past two decades, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

The average weight calculations for 2011-2014 are based on an analysis of a sample of 19,151 people who underwent medical examinations and were interviewed at home.

Researchers found that the average weight of men in the United States rose from 181 pounds to 196 pounds between 1988-1994 and 2011-2014. Their average height remained the same at about 5 feet, 9 inches.

The weight of the average woman rose from 152 pounds to 169 pounds, while her height remained steady at just under 5 feet, 4 inches.

These numbers put both the average man and woman in the overweight category, based on the BMI (body mass index) scale, and just a point or two away from being considered obese.

The CDC report did not give a reason for the increase in weight among Americans in the 2011-2014 period. But several recent studies have pointed to a persistent obesity epidemic in the United States among both adults and children.

It is estimated that more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and a June 2016 study reported that 40 percent of American women are now obese.

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Latest on Menopause and Heart Disease, Stroke Risk Factors

The risk for women of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke appear to increase strongly in the years leading up to menopause, rather than afterward, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The report also found that rapidly increasing risk factors before menopause appear to be more pronounced among African-American women.

The risk factors, together known as metabolic syndrome, include a large waistline, high triglyceride (a blood fat) levels, low HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels, high blood pressure and high blood sugar when fasting.

Researchers examined the records of 1,470 women who took part in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, a national project. Participants were selected based on whether they went through menopausal changes over a 10-year period. Each participant was assigned a metabolic syndrome severity score based on a formula the authors developed that has been adopted by other researchers.

“Previous research showed that after menopause, women were at much greater risk for metabolic syndrome than before menopause began,” said Mark DeBoer, M.D., MSc., M.C.C., study senior author and an association professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “This latest study indicates that the increased risk observed earlier may be related more to the changes happening as women go through menopause and less to the changes that take place after menopause.”

After considering hormone replacement therapy and other factors that might skew results, the study found that:

  • Women went through rapid increases in metabolic syndrome severity during the last years of pre-menopause and the transition years to menopause, known as “perimenopause.”
  • African-American women saw a much more rapid rise in metabolic syndrome severity before menopause, but a slower rate of increase after menopause, than white women.
  • Overall, African-American women had higher rates of metabolic syndrome, especially high blood pressure and high fasting blood-sugar levels, than white women at the beginning of the study.

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