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Hormonal changes during menopause are directly related to decline in cardiovascular health, study reveals

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While conducting the study, the scientists analysed 218 perimenopausal women who not using HRT at baseline. Meanwhile, levels of 180 metabolites (lipids, lipoproteins and amino acids) and two hormones (oestradiol and FSH) were obtained from blood samples at baseline and every three to six months until early post menopause.

Scientists from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland have revealed that during menopause levels of bad cholesterol rise, and 10 percent of this elevation is caused due to shifts in sex hormones. The findings of the study were published on Friday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Generally, women who belong to the age group 48-52 years undergo menopause and it leads to a decline in oestrogen and an increase in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). According to scientists, menopause predisposes women to heart disease since it typically develops 10 years later than in men, and risk rises after menopause.

Earlier studies have suggested that menopause is associated with heart disease-promoting levels of metabolites. However, this study is the first to link this shift with changes in female sex hormones, claims the researchers. They said that the metabolite shifts were partially ameliorated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

“Menopause is unavoidable but it is possible that the negative metabolite shift can be diminished by eating healthily and being physically active. In particular, women should pay attention to the quality of fat in their diet and get sufficient exercise to maintain cardiorespiratory fitness. HRT is an option that women should discuss with healthcare providers at this point in their lives” said study author Dr. Eija K. Laakkonen of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

While conducting the study, the scientists analysed 218 perimenopausal women who not using HRT at baseline. Meanwhile, levels of 180 metabolites (lipids, lipoproteins and amino acids) and two hormones (oestradiol and FSH) were obtained from blood samples at baseline and every three to six months until early postmenopause. Moreover, the scientists accessed the menopausal state using menstrual diaries and blood FSH levels. Early postmenopause was defined as no periods for over six months and elevated FSH levels on at least two consecutive occasions. A total of 35 women (15%) started HRT during the study.

“Our study investigated whether the menopausal hormonal change modulates the metabolite profile measured in blood samples taken before and after menopause. Because the menopausal transition, i.e. the time with variable hormone levels and irregular menses, varies tremendously from person to person, the time points for assessment were individualised,” Dr. Laakkonen explained.

Additionally, the researchers carried out detailed statistical analyses to determine what changes occur in metabolite levels during the menopausal transition and whether these changes are related to the shift in sex hormone levels. They also tested whether the metabolite trajectory varied between HRT users and non-users.

Meanwhile, a second exploratory analysis revealed that HRT was associated with increases in high-density lipoprotein (“good”) cholesterol and reductions in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

According to Dr. Laakkonen, this study links hormonal changes during menopause to metabolic alterations that promote heart disease. She also stated that previous studies did not confirm menopausal status with hormone measurements. “Our results should be interpreted with caution since the links with sex hormones and HRT were found in exploratory analyses and need confirmation,” she added.

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