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Mayo Clin Proc. 1997 Mar;72(3):235-44.

Lipids and lipoproteins in women.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, Nutrition and Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common cause of death in women in the United States. Dyslipidemia is a risk factor for CAD in both men and women. Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and hypertriglyceridemia, especially in association with a dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL) phenotype, may be of greater importance in women than in men. The relationship between CAD and dyslipidemia and the therapeutic approach to disorders of lipid metabolism in women have unique features because of the effects of exogenous and endogenous hormones on lipid pathways. Estrogen decreases LDL cholesterol and Lp(a) lipoprotein and increases triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels. Progestogens decrease triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and Lp(a), and they increase LDL cholesterol. Thus, oral contraceptives increase plasma triglycerides, whereas the effect of these agents on LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels is related to the androgenicity and dose of progestogen. Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy increases triglycerides and decreases LDL cholesterol. The effect of hormone replacement therapy on HDL cholesterol is influenced by the addition of progestogen. Although no primary prevention studies have analyzed lipid lowering and CAD in women, secondary prevention studies have suggested that the response to drug treatment and the benefit of lipid lowering are similar in women and in men. Hormone replacement therapy should be considered in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia in postmenopausal women; however, individualization of treatment is important to avoid adverse effects.

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