"We do think it is more healthy for women to be shaped like pears with their weight concentrating around their hips while women who are shaped like apples most likely have higher amounts of intra abdominal fat," she said.
Powell added that the WISH study is also the first study to examine the mediating role stress plays in heart disease risk among post menopausal women. Participants will be given a saliva test to determine the amount of cortisol that is present in the morning and at night -- times when levels are typically at their highest.
Cortisol is a steroid that regulates blood pressure and cardiovascular function as well as the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Cortisol secretion increases in response to any stress in the body, whether physical (such as illness, trauma, surgery, or temperature extremes) or psychological. When cortisol is secreted, it causes a breakdown of muscle protein, leading to release of amino acids (the "building blocks" of protein) into the bloodstream.
"In women who are under stress, we often see that coritsol does no level off at night, leading to insomnia and poor sleep," she explained.
Powell hopes this new study can shed light on the role intra abdominal fat plays in risk for coronary artery disease, which would then allow doctors to develop better therapies, diets and interventions to assist these women.