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Clin J Sport Med. 2006 May;16(3):247-52.

Endothelial function in post-menopausal former elite athletes.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.



To characterize endothelial function in postmenopausal former elite athletes in comparison to sedentary controls and to study the influence of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on endothelial function in these groups of women.


Cross-sectional study.


Research unit at a university hospital.


Twenty postmenopausal former elite but still active endurance female athletes and 19 age-matched sedentary controls. The group of athletes and control subjects were each subdivided into two groups on the basis of utilization or non-utilization of HRT involving estrogen and gestagen.


Flow-mediated vasodilatation (FMD) was employed as an indicator of endothelial function. Fasting blood samples were analyzed for lipids and body composition determined by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.


FMD, blood lipids and body composition.


Former elite athletes not utilizing HRT demonstrated the highest FMD of all four subgroups, their values being significantly higher than those of control subjects not utilizing HRT (P < 0.05), whereas this difference was not seen between the subgroups of athletes and control subjects using HRT. Serum levels of cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the percentage of fat mass were significantly lower in the former elite athletes than in the control group (P < 0.05 in all cases). However, these variables were not related to FMD.


This investigation documents enhanced endothelial function in postmenopausal former elite endurance athletes not utilizing HRT, whereas the use of HRT equalizes FMD in former athletes and sedentary control subjects. Our findings suggest that long-term strenuous exercise has beneficial effects on endothelial function in postmenopausal women but that no further improvement can be obtained with HRT.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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