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Medicineworld.org: Monkey studies parallel WHI findings

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Monkey studies parallel WHI findings




Studies in female monkeys helped raise important questions about hormone treatment that were addressed in a Womens Health Initiative study reported last week in the New England Journal (NEJM). The animal research, conducted at the Wake Forest University Primate Center, also suggests the role that stress can play in heart disease development and point to the need for early prevention of heart disease.

Our research in monkeys suggests that stress can affect estrogen levels and may set the stage for heart disease during the later part of life, as per Jay Kaplan, Ph.D., professor of comparative medicine and director of the primate center. It also suggests women need to start thinking about heart disease prevention before menopause. We observed that the five years before menopause are when heart vessel disease begins to accelerate.



Monkey studies parallel WHI findings

Kaplan and Thomas Clarkson, D.V.M., have published numerous articles from their monkey research on the effects of hormone treatment on heart vessel disease. Their findings, along with research in humans, were a driving force behind the hypothesis that there is a window of opportunity during which hormone treatment can help prevent atherosclerosis. The theory was explored in the Womens Health Initiative Coronary Artery Calcium Study (WHI-CAC).

WHI-CAC showed that younger postmenopausal women who take estrogen-alone hormone treatment have significantly less building of calcium plaque in their arteries in comparison to their peers who did not take hormone treatment. The plaque is considered a marker for future risk of atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Clarkson began a study in 1988 funded by the National, Heart Lung and Blood Institute to study how hormone treatment affects heart disease risk in monkeys. He observed that estrogen replacement administered to monkeys as soon as they were made surgically menopausal resulted in about a 70 percent inhibition in the progression of coronary artery atherosclerosis.

When therapy with estrogen or estrogen plus progestin was delayed for an equivalent of six years in women, however, there was no benefit. The work led to the hypothesis that estrogen inhibits the development of vessel disease, but may be ineffective, and even harmful, if the disease already exists.

Clearly hormone treatment isnt a drug for preventing or treating heart disease, said Clarkson. The question is whether, when hormone treatment is used for the therapy of menopausal symptoms, there are benefits linked to the cardiovascular system that might offset any documented risks.

In addition to raising this important question about hormone treatment, the animal studies also have other important health implications for women. Women have traditionally been considered immune from heart disease until after menopause, when their estrogen levels dramatically drop. But the monkey studies suggest that stress can actually reduce estrogen levels much earlier in life and hasten the development of atherosclerosis, thus increasing the postmenopausal burden of coronary disease risk.

These effects may apply to up to half of premenopausal women, Kaplan said, emphasizing the need for young women to be educated about the relationship between reproductive health and chronic disease risk.

"Our research adds to the growing body of evidence that cardiovascular health after menopause is influenced by hormone levels a number of years earlier," said Kaplan. "The message for women is that anything that reduces estrogen levels in young adulthood - whether it be stress or exercise and diet habits - may put women on a high-risk course for heart disease."

Clarkson said that because cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women over age 55 and because studies show that declines in estrogen in perimenopause can lead to its development it is imperative to identify risk factors and promote early prevention.

The evidence that levels of atherosclerosis present at the time of menopause are determined by premenopausal estrogen exposure is underappreciated, he said.


Posted by: Janet    Source




Did you know?
Studies in female monkeys helped raise important questions about hormone treatment that were addressed in a Womens Health Initiative study reported last week in the New England Journal (NEJM). The animal research, conducted at the Wake Forest University Primate Center, also suggests the role that stress can play in heart disease development and point to the need for early prevention of heart disease.

Medicineworld.org: Monkey studies parallel WHI findings

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