New study shows women more vulnerable to artery hardening during menopause
Hardening of the arteries, typically occurs as the result of high blood pressure, smoking and/or cholesterol. HDL, the “good cholesterol” has well-documented benefits in protecting against the hardening process which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Recently, medical professionals have theorized that these benefits are diminished during the menopause transition as a result of hormonal alterations—especially estradiol reduction. The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, led a study to prove exactly how much the quality of HDL is impacted during menopause with regard to its ability to help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.
The study included 225 women in their mid and late 40’s who had up to five measures of plaque buildup over a maximum of nine years of follow-up. All participants were tested and diagnosed as being free of any cardiovascular disease at the time of the baseline scan.
“What we found is that, as women transition through menopause, increases in good cholesterol were actually associated with greater plaque buildup,” says Dr. Samar El Khoudary, Assistant Professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology who served as the lead author for the study. “These findings suggest that the quality of HDL may be altered over the menopausal transition, thus rendering it ineffective in delivering the expected cardiac benefits.”
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