[Is menopause a risk factor for ischemic heart disease in women?].
ABSTRACT Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in men and women worldwide. The apparent cardioprotective effects of endogenous estrogens seem to prevent CVD in premenopausal women. Following menopause and loss of hormonal effects, gender-based differences in CVD are reduced, with the CVD risk being higher in women who develop the metabolic syndrome. In postmenopausal women, many features of the metabolic syndrome emerge with estrogen deficiency. Estrogen deficiency occurring in the menopausal period is associated with 1) dyslipidemia (hypertriglyceridemia, reduced HDL, and increased small dense LDL particles); 2) insulin resistance; 3) hypertension; 4) increased central fat and reduction in lean body mass; and 5) increased hypercoagulability and pro-inflammatory state. In addition to traditional cardiovascular risk factors, also early menopause has a negative impact on females. Over the past years, different approaches were found to improve quality of life and cardiovascular health in menopausal women. Since the concept of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), large observational studies and randomized clinical trials have amassed a wealth of data about the effects of menopause and the safety and efficacy of using estrogen replacement therapies to treat menopause symptoms and menopause-related diseases. While there is no question that HRT effectively mitigates troublesome menopause symptoms, conflicting evidence about other effects of HRT has fueled controversy concerning its relative benefits and risks. Moreover, it seems that CVD protection mediated by replacement therapy is maximum when treatment is initiated in the absence of signs of atherosclerosis (typically in the premenopausal period), whereas it vanishes as atherosclerosis progresses (postmenopausal period). However, many questions remain unsolved regarding the effectiveness of hormonal compounds, doses, regimens, and route of administration. On the basis of these considerations, it is necessary in the near future to expand scientific knowledge and develop appropriate lifestyle modifications and therapeutic strategies for the treatment of either traditional cardiovascular risk factors or menopause-related metabolic changes.