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To analyse the effect of menopause on blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.From an Italian general population, 568 women (408 pre- and 160 post-menopausal) were screened twice, in 1978 and 16 years later.Cross-sectional analyses both in 1978 and in 1994, and longitudinal analysis in the 1978-1994 period.For the general analysis the cohort was reduced to 525 women with paired data in 1978 and 1994. In both cross-sectional studies, unadjusted blood pressure and cardiovascular risk were higher after than they were before menopause, but any difference disappeared after adjustment or matching for age. In 1994 we studied three groups of women: those who were still premenopausal, those who were fertile in 1978 but postmenopausal in 1994 and those who were already postmenopausal in 1978. The 16-year blood pressure increment was similar in all three groups. The incidence of myocardial infarction and angina pectoris was greater in those who were already postmenopausal than it was in those who had their menopause during the study period. An analysis of mortality was performed for all of the 568 women. Forty-three of them died, 14 from cardiovascular causes (six before and eight after menopause), menopause), 18 from neoplasia (two before and 16 after menopause) and 11 from other diseases. Menopausal status was rejected from the Cox equations both of overall and of cardiovascular mortality, showing a significantly predictive value only for neoplastic mortality.Menopause has no influence on high blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. The greater blood pressure levels, mortality and morbidity observed in postmenopausal women are simply attributable to their older age and are no longer detectable in an age-matched sample.