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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Pittsburgh: Research Finds Heart Disease Risk Grows as Women Move Through Menopause

A marker for heart disease risk considerably worsens as women transition through menopause, according to a new analysis from the largest and longest running study of women’s health in midlife, the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Black women experience this accelerated decline earlier in menopause than their white counterparts.

According to the research team, led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, the findings add to growing evidence that menopause is a critical time for changes in cardiovascular health and underscore the importance of women and their doctors focusing on heart health during the menopausal transition. The results are reported online and will appear in the March issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, a journal of the American Heart Association.

“Midlife is not just a period where women have hot flashes and experience other menopausal symptoms” said senior author Dr. Samar R. El Khoudary, associate professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health. “It’s a time when their cardiovascular disease risk is increasing as we see significant changes in multiple clinical measures of their physical health.”

The study focused on how arterial stiffness changes as women transition through menopause. On average, as women went through menopause, their arterial stiffness increased by about 0.9 percent up to one year before their last menstrual period to about 7.5 percent within one year before and after their last period, a considerable acceleration.

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