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Cardiovascular Disease After Menopause

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Review on December 03, 2009

Cardiovascular disease (most specifically, coronary heart disease) is the leading cause of death for women over the age of 60, or those who have gone through menopause. Post menopause women are four to eight times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than all other diseases combined, even cancers. Almost 520,000 women die from coronary heart disease annually. Though the number of deaths in women due to cardiovascular disease continues to rise each year since 1984, the death toll for cardiovascular disease in men has declined significantly since 1980. The differences in coronary heart disease risk factors between men and women should not be ignored however as they may affect treatment decisions.

Coronary heart disease is significantly lower in women before menopause, a factor that has been attributed by the available and abundant amount of estrogen. After menopause, a woman's estrogen level drops dramatically, putting her at risk for a number of diseases including coronary heart disease. Thus, the hypothesis naturally arises of whether or not hormones replacement therapy will play a beneficial role on the development of coronary heart disease in women past menopause.

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At the top of the treatment list of women who have gone through menopause is hormones replacement therapy. Ongoing studies are in effect to determine the relationship between hormones replacement therapy and the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study and the Estrogen Replacement and Atherosclerosis Study did not find any benefit of estrogen hormones replacement therapy and estrogen plus progestin hormones replacement therapy in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease in women. Nor did it halt the progression of coronary heart disease in women that already had the disease.

Other data suggests that lipid-lowering therapy better reduces women's coronary heart disease risk and mortalit, and thus should be the drug of choice for women who already have coronary heart disease.

To prevent coronary heart disease women should quit smoke. More than fifty percent of coronary heart related deaths are because of to tobacco use. Heavy smokers are 2 – 4 times more likely to develop the disease over nonsmokers and light smokers are at double the risk. A positive side is that quitting smoking decrease the risk of coronary heart disease in just months.

Women who have past the menopause stage of life should continue to take hormones replacement therapy if advised by their doctors to treat post menopause symptoms. They should however be aware of the many side effects and know that hormones replacement therapy may not necessarily combat the risk and development of coronary heart disease, as previously believed.