Vascular (vessel) disease is relatively rare in the early decades of a female’s life, but by the time a woman enters her 50’s cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases become leading causes of death. It has long been suspected that a female’s hormones play an important role in these age related cardiovascular changes.
A recent study in the journal Fertility and Sterility (2011;96:1445-1450) looked at markers of vascular disease in relationship to factors including hormone use. Researchers found that carotid artery thickness and carotid pulse pressure were both lower in women who used hormone replacement. Arterial thickness and increased pulse pressure are both indicators of diseased vessels. They found that although both of these factors increased with age, they worsened more slowly in the hormone replacement users.
So the take away from this study is that hormone replacement seemed to lower the risk of developing vascular disease, and also slowed the rate at which it occurs. With life expectancy now exceeding 70 years, minimizing any risk that we can is even more important to keeping ourselves healthy for as long as possible, so that we can enjoy all of those extra years.