‘Like a roadmap that is ever changing’

Posted by on Jun 25, 2008 in heart disease, HRT | 0 comments

The GPS certainly comes in handy when you’re in unfamiliar territory. But what happens if the territory changes suddenly, new streets replace old, and you’re unable to turn around?

Before menopause, women are protected from conditions such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke but lose this protection afterward.

Missouri University scientists believe that they’ve uncovered one of the reasons why: the body’s natural adaptation to a loss of estrogen. They say that animal study findings suggest that the vascular system depends on estrogen to maintain the status quo.  With a decline in estrogen production, the body loses its ability to regulate and maintain blood vessels the old way, and adapts by creating new “side streets” of vessels.  Women have are at increased risk for developing disease in these new vessels with symptoms that are subtler and harder to identify.

Study co-author Virginia Huxley, a professor at the Missouri University’s School of Medicine, likens blood vessels to highways that transport oxygen and other nutrients. She says that these roads are ‘ever changing’ after estrogen production halts. Importantly, the research team believes that adding estrogen to a system that has learned to adapt without it can upset the transition and lead to complications. This may be why HRT after menopause is counterintuitive and downright dangerous.

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