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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Dec 1;125(6):1881-1887. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00117.2018. Epub 2018 Sep 13.

Intersection between gonadal function and vascular aging in women.

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Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus , Aurora, Colorado.
Denver Veterans Administration Medical Center, Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Denver, Colorado.


Vascular aging, characterized by endothelial dysfunction and large elastic arterial stiffening, is a major risk factor for age-associated cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although women have a lower prevalence of CVD until midlife, prevalence rates increase rapidly coincident with the menopausal transition to match those observed in men. The menopausal transition, or perimenopause, is a chaotic period that is associated with increased symptoms (e.g., hot flashes, depressed mood, anxiety, sleep disturbances) and CVD risk factors due to changes in the hormonal environment. Because these quality of life factors and CVD risk factors also change with aging, the arteries of women appear to endure a double insult. Our laboratory has been investigating how changes in gonadal function and hormone levels with the menopause transition impacts the vascular aging process in healthy women. Our work has shown that vascular endothelial function progressively declines, and large elastic arterial stiffness is greater across the stages of the menopausal transition. This acceleration in vascular aging may be due to the loss of vasodilatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiproliferative effects of estradiol on the vascular wall. This minireview discusses the impact of changes in gonadal function and hormones with the menopausal transition on vascular aging in women and areas for investigations to further our understanding of the intersection between gonadal function and vascular aging.


aging; sex hormones; vascular biology; women

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