Associations of Postmenopausal Estrogen Use With Cardiovascular Disease and Its Risk Factors in Older Women

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Abstract

Background.

Postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy has been associated with favorable levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors, but these associations and the relations between estrogen use and subclinical disease have not been examined in large samples of older women.

Methods and Results.

Present and past estrogen use was ascertained in 2955 women ≥65 years old in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a study of risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke in the elderly. Present estrogen use was reported by 12% of these women and past use by an additional 26.5%. Estrogen use (past or present) was strongly associated with lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, fibrinogen, glucose, insulin, obesity, and age and higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and socioeconomic status (allP<.0001). Estrogen users also had lower levels of subclinical disease as measured by carotid intimal-medial thickness, carotid stenosis grade, ECG left ventricular mass, and Doppler mitral peak flow velocities (eachP<.02). Relations were similar in younger and older women (65 to 74 versus ≥75 years) and smokers and nonsmokers and were unchanged after women with poor medication compliance were excluded. After adjustment for other factors, estrogen use was associated with decreased carotid wall thickness, although this association was of borderline significance after further adjustment for lipids.

Conclusions.

Postmenopausal estrogen use in this sample of older women was associated with favorable cardiovascular disease risk factor profiles and with lower measures of subclinical disease. These findings suggest that postmenopausal estrogen use may be associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women well into the eighth decade of life. (Circulation.1993;88[part 1]:2163–2171.)

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