News | December 22, 2009

Menopause Linked to Harmful Changes in Blood Cholesterol

December 22, 2009 – A new study is the first to specifically identify the year immediately around a woman’s final menstrual period as the time of most adverse changes in the lipid profile in women. The study appears in the Dec. 15-22, 2009, print double issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) and the Prevention and Outcomes Quarterly Focus Issue.

The new findings emphasize the need to closely monitor lipid profiles of premenopausal and perimenopausal women. Researchers also suggest encouraging proven lifestyle changes and therapeutic interventions to try to counter, and prevent, adverse changes in lipids.

The study authors said it has been hotly debated whether the jump in heart disease risk among post-menopausal women is a function of aging or a consequence of the menopausal transition and the associated loss of endogenous estrogen, or both.

The study followed 1,054 initially pre-menopausal or early perimenopausal women from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The study assessed changes in a wide variety of cardiovascular risk factors in relation to a women’s final menstrual period. Only total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) and its protein carrier (apoB) increased substantially around the time of a woman’s final menstrual period, consistent with menopause-induced changes.

These unique increases, which were independent of age and other cofounders, occurred in women of all weight levels and were similar across all ethnic groups, suggesting menopause has a uniform influence on lipids. Researchers found no changes in inflammatory or anti-coagulation factors, blood pressure, or insulin and glucose related to a woman’s final menstrual period; instead, these risk factors were consistent with a linear model, indicative of chronological aging.

Participants in this nine-year study ranged in age from 42 to 52 years, were not taking hormone therapy before menopause, were free of stroke, heart disease and diabetes at entry, and were followed annually and experienced their final menstrual period during follow-up.

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