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Stroke. 1998 Jun;29(6):1116-21.

Carotid atherosclerosis in premenopausal and postmenopausal women and its association with risk factors measured after menopause.

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Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.



In women, symptoms of coronary artery disease are delayed by 10 to 15 years in comparison with men, most likely because of the protective effect of ovarian hormones. This report compares the prevalence and degree of carotid atherosclerosis between 292 premenopausal women and 294 women at 5 to 8 years after menopause.


Scans were performed in the same laboratory over the same time period for both groups. Intima-media thickness (IMT) was averaged across the common, bulb, and internal carotids. The plaque index summarized degree of focal plaque based on the size and number of plaques throughout both carotid systems.


Mean IMT was 0.69 mm for premenopausal women and 0.77 mm for postmenopausal women (P < 0.001). Prevalence of plaque was 25% among premenopausal women and 54% among postmenopausal women (P < 0.001). In both premenopausal and postmenopausal women, risk factors measured before menopause were associated with carotid atherosclerosis. Premenopausal risk factors independently associated with IMT were higher pulse pressure (P < 0.001), triglycerides (P = 0.002), body mass index (P < 0.001), and study group (a surrogate for both age and menopausal status; P < 0.001). Premenopausal risk factors independently associated with focal plaque were ever smoking (P = 0.002), higher pulse pressure (P = 0.028), higher LDL (P = 0.003), age at baseline (P = 0.050), and study group (P < 0.001).


Subclinical carotid atherosclerosis can be observed in middle-aged women. Risk factors measured before menopause are clearly associated with subclinical disease measured both concurrently and at 5 to 8 years after menopause.

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