Cardiovascular disease considerations are associated with the menopause. Despite a misconception that women have a minimal risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), it is the major cause of female deaths. This review highlights issues of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and CHD in women.
A woman under age 60, who suffers a myocardial infarction (MI), has a 2-year post-MI mortality of 28.9%; it is 19.6% in men. CHD and MI in women are subtle. In addition, female mortality from CHD increases after the menopause. The increased inflammatory risk factor status of women plays a role in development of atherosclerosis, before and after the menopause. Until after the menopause, women overall have a lower CHD mortality rate. Menopause is associated with unique symptoms, especially vasomotor ones; preexisting cardiovascular disease further exacerbates problems associated with the menopause. Use of HRT after the menopause is a major issue. Early menopause at age 39 years or younger and late menopause at age 56 years or older increase cardiovascular risk. HRT should not be prescribed for cardiovascular risk prevention, but when less than 10 years from menopause at a normal age, women can be reassured that cardiovascular risk from HRT is very low.
Prescription of HRT should never be made only for cardiovascular risk reduction. However, when symptom-related and other indications are present, HRT is appropriate and well tolerated in the early years after menopause with onset at a normal age.
aDivision of Cardiovascular Medicine, Gill Heart Institute, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
bDivision of Cardiovascular Medicine, Texas Tech University HSC, and Paul Foster School of Medicine, El Paso, Texas, USA
Correspondence to Thomas F. Whayne, Jr, MD, PhD, 326 Wethington Building, 900 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40536-0200, USA. Tel: +1 859 218 5332; fax: +1 859 323 6475; e-mail: email@example.com