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Hormone therapy may be most protective in women with healthiest blood vessels

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. When it comes to protection against heart disease, women with the healthiest blood vessels may have the most to gain from estrogen replacement therapy, reported Mary S. Anthony, Ph.D., from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta today at the 51st annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.

In a study of monkeys, Anthony and colleagues found that animals in the earliest stages of atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in the vessels, showed the most benefit from hormone therapy. The hormone was most effective at slowing the diseases progression when it was given at an early stage.

Applied to women, this means that estrogen replacement therapy may be less effective when arterial disease is advanced, said Anthony, assistant professor of public health sciences. This corresponds with two studies showing that in women with existing heart disease, hormone replacement does not slow the diseases progression or prevent heart disease events.

For the study, female monkeys were fed a high-fat diet for two years to cause atherosclerosis. The researchers then measured fatty lesions in the animals blood vessels and designated the animals into three groups based on their levels of vessel disease.

The ovaries of all monkeys were removed to induce menopause. For three years after menopause, half of the monkeys were treated with estrogen in doses comparable to what women typically take. The other animals got no hormone treatment. At the end of the three years, the researchers again measured fatty lesions in the animals vessels.

The measurements showed that animals treated with estrogen had less atherosclerosis overall than the untreated group. But, the most dramatic differences were seen in monkeys that had the healthiest arteries to start with.

In the group of monkeys with the lowest levels of vessel disease at menopause, fatty lesions were 85 percent smaller in the estrogen-treated
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
19-Mar-2002


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