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Circulation. 1999 Jan 26;99(3):354-60.

Vascular effects of estrogen and cholesterol-lowering therapies in hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women.

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  • 1Cardiology Branch National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1650, USA.



Lipoproteins affect endothelium-dependent vasomotor responsiveness. Because lipoprotein effects of estrogen and cholesterol-lowering therapies differ, we studied the vascular responses to these therapies in hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women.


We randomly assigned 28 women to conjugated equine estrogen (CE) 0.625 mg, simvastatin 10 mg, and their combination daily for 6 weeks. Compared with respective baseline values, simvastatin alone and combined with CE reduced LDL cholesterol to a greater extent than CE alone (both P<0.05). CE alone and combined with simvastatin raised HDL cholesterol and lowered lipoprotein(a) to a greater extent than simvastatin alone (all P<0.05). Flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery (by ultrasonography) improved (all P<0.001 versus baseline values) on CE (4.0+/-2.6% to 10.2+/-3.9%), simvastatin (4.3+/-2.4% to 10.0+/-3.9%), and CE combined with simvastatin (4.6+/-2.0% to 9.8+/-2.6%), but similarly among therapies (P=0.507 by ANOVA). None of the therapies improved the dilator response to nitroglycerin (all P>/=0.184). Only therapies including CE lowered levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 and the cell adhesion molecule E-selectin (all P<0. 05 versus simvastatin).


Although estrogen and statin therapies have differing effects on lipoprotein levels, specific improvement in endothelium-dependent vasodilator responsiveness is similar. However, only therapies including estrogen improved markers of fibrinolysis and vascular inflammation. Thus, estrogen therapy appears to have unique properties that may benefit the vasculature of hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women, even if they are already on cholesterol-lowering therapy.

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