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Diabetes Mellitus, Menopause, and Cardiovascular Disease in Women

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Review on November 12, 2009

In the United States, coronary heart disease (CHD) is the main cause of death among women, killing more than a quarter of a million females between the ages of 50-79 each year. Although CHD is more uncommon in women who have not yet entered menopause than in men, this difference fades after the beginning of menopause. This is most probably due to lower levels of female sex hormones which result from menopause and its impact on the female body. This article aims to look at the relationship between diabetes mellitus, menopause, and cardiovascular disease in women.

Although CHD is more unusual in women who have not yet entered menopause than in men, this difference fades after the beginning of menopause. This is most probably due to the fact that levels of female sex hormones such as the progesterone hormone are much lower during menopause.

After menopause, a rise in blood pressure and CHD occur at the same time as the loss of ovarian function, and, together with reduced progesterone hormone levels brought about by menopause, they indicate that the progesterone hormone may help in the fight against hypertension and CHD.

Studies have shown that diabetes removes the normal sex difference where CHD is present. Furthermore, an increase in CHD among women in the US parallels an increase in the rate of both hypertension and diabetes with advanced age. Research suggests that diabetes can hinder the protective effects of female sex hormones such as progesterone hormone before menopause.

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The difference between the rate of CHD in women who have yet to enter menopause and men of equal age, implies that either sex or endogenous sex hormones such as progesterone hormone, have a significant influence on the vasculature (blood vessels in the body). Despite the fact that risk factors for CHD are similar in both sexes, few large-scale studies have been performed solely on women.

In the Framingham Study, it was discovered that for people aged between 50 and 59, diabetes mellitus was a greater risk factor for CHD in women than in men. Additionally, an epidemiological study from Rancho Bernardo showed a greater death rate among women with CHD and diabetes compared to women without diabetes.

Like with age-related increases in CHD, hypertension is a problem affecting industrialized nations such as the United States. The mechanisms by which diabetes hinders the cardiovascular protective impact of female sex hormones such as progesterone hormone in women yet to embark on menopause are not well known.

Some scientists claim that there is evidence to suggest that high levels of insulin can contribute to the high rate of atherosclerotic CHD among women with diabetes. Thus, it can be said that controlling metabolic abnormalities can ease the burden of cardiovascular disease in females with diabetes mellitus, though more trials are needed to confirm this.

As a result of this investigation, it can be concluded that there is a clear link between menopause, diabetes, and CHD. During menopause, women experience lower levels of sex hormones such as progesterone. Post-menopause, increased blood pressure and CHD together with reduced sex hormone levels suggest that such hormones may help in the fight against hypertension and CHD. Data from other studies suggests that diabetes can hinder the protective effects of female sex hormones such as progesterone hormone before menopause. The means by which diabetes obstructs the cardiovascular protective effects of female sex hormones in women who have yet to enter menopause are not well understood and so more research is vital.