Frequent and large cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to psychological stress are thought to enhance an individual's risk for cardiovascular diseases. Preliminary data suggest that levels of reproductive hormones affect the magnitude of stress responses, perhaps contributing to the protective effect of ovarian hormones on premenopausal women's rates of coronary heart disease.Methods and Results
Healthy middle-aged men and premenopausal and postmenopausal women performed a series of standardized mental and physical challenges while blood pressure, heart rate, plasma catecholamines, lipids, and lipoproteins were measured. Subjects then wore an ambulatory blood pressure monitor during two consecutive workdays. Results showed that postmenopausal women had larger mean±SEM stress-induced increases in systolic blood pressure (24.7±2.2 mm Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (143±1.0 mm Hg) compared with either premenopausal women (16.9±1.3 and 10.2±0.9 mm Hg) or men (17.7±1.5 and 10.9 ± 1.1 mm Hg, respectively). Postmenopausal women and men had higher mean±SEM ambulatory diastolic blood pressure levels (75.5±3.2 and 76.4±±1.8 mm Hg) than did premenopausal women (69.9±2.2 mm Hg). Large blood pressure responses during public speaking were associated with high cholesterol levels and low educational attainment.Conclusion
Menopause is associated with enhanced stress-induced cardiovascular responses and elevated ambulatory blood pressure during the workday. These effects may contribute to the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality after the menopause.