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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Pittsburgh: Finds Hormone Therapy Linked to Heart Fat, Hard Arteries

Hormone replacement therapy is a common treatment for menopause-related symptoms, and new research from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health reinforces the importance of tailoring hormone therapy to each patient, based on her individual risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers showed for the first time that hormone replacement therapy affects the accumulation of heart fat — a new risk factor for cardiovascular disease in midlife women. Importantly, the formulation and delivery route of hormones — whether as a pill taken orally or a patch placed on the skin — mattered when it came to the types of fat deposits women developed and whether those fat deposits translated to hardening of the arteries.

“We cannot treat all menopause hormone therapy types the same,” said lead author Dr. Samar El Khoudary, associate professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health. “We’re adding to the recognized list of cardiovascular-related effects of menopause hormone therapy by showing a novel cardiovascular risk factor that’s specific to menopausal women also is affected by hormone therapy.”

Menopause commonly comes with a host of challenges — including hot flashes, night sweats and increased risk of osteoporosis — and hormone therapy is the primary treatment.

The transdermal estradiol patch compounded the harmful effects of paracardial fat deposition on coronary artery calcification (CAC) progression. In contrast, women on the estrogen pill were less likely to see increases in heart fat in the epicardial space immediately surrounding the heart or worsening CAC.

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