Influence of endogenous androgens on carotid wall in postmenopausal women

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ObjectiveThere is increasing evidence of a direct association between normal androgen levels and reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in women. After menopause the influence of estrogens declines, whereas that of androgens increases. Therefore, we investigated the effects of androgens on atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women, by using carotid artery intimal-medial thickness as a marker of vascular damage.DesignBlood pressure, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, androstenedione, total and free testosterone, estrone, insulin, lipid profile, and glucose were evaluated in 44 women in stable physiological menopause. All subjects underwent carotid ultrasound (Biosound 2000 II s.a. high-resolution unit).ResultsSpearman correlation coefficients indicated that serum androstenedione and free testosterone were negatively associated with several carotid intimal-medial thickness measures with correlation coefficients (r) ranging from 0.477 to 0.397 (p < 0.01–0.04). Moreover, age-adjusted androstenedione and free testosterone highest tertiles showed intimal-medial thickness values significantly (p < 0.03–0.05) lower than the other tertiles. There was a favorable association between hormones and the most important cardiovascular risk factors. This association, however, did not reach statistical significance. Stepwise multiple regression analysis showed that the inverse relationships between the hormones (androstenedione and free testosterone) and several intimal-medial thickness measures were maintained (F: 4.15–6.07, p < 0.05–0.02) after adjustment for major cardiovascular risk factors.ConclusionsOur data demonstrate that in postmenopausal women endogenous steroid precursors and androgens are inversely related to carotid intimal-medial thickness, an established marker of atherosclerosis. In addition, these hormones show favorable associations with cardiovascular risk factors. Therefore, our study suggests that, after menopause, normal androgen levels may benefit the carotid artery wall.

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