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Heart Health

Women and Heart Disease: A New RIsk

Hormonal changes during menopause could increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, researchers have found.

The study, by investigators from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, was done by using an advanced method to analyze “cholesterol carriers” in the blood. The researchers found that during the transition to menopause, the quality of those carriers degrades.

Investigators said the study showed that the quality of cholesterol carriers could be as important as cholesterol numbers.

“Higher levels of HDL, or what we know as ‘good cholesterol,’ may not always be protective, as we have thought before,” said lead investigator Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology .

“We found that lower levels of estradiol, one of the main hormonal changes that mark menopause, are associated with low-quality cholesterol carriers, which have been found to predict risk for heart disease,” she said.

“Our results suggest that there may be value in using advanced testing methods to evaluate changes in cholesterol carriers’ quality in women early in menopause so that doctors can recommend appropriate diet and lifestyle changes.”

The study evaluated 120 women from Pittsburgh, with an average of 50 ½ years old. They were not on hormone replacement therapy.

The findings were published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

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