PITTSBURGH, March 26 -- Using electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) to visualize early heart disease, a University of Pittsburgh team has found that pre-menopausal risk factors strongly predict which women will develop coronary artery disease five to eight years after menopause.
The study is the first to combine EBCT scans of the aorta and coronary arteries with carotid ultrasounds to assess the extent of heart disease in living people, according to Kim Sutton-Tyrrell, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the University's Graduate School of Public Health. The report is being presented March 26 at the Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Orlando, Fla.
"The important news for pre-menopausal women is that risk factors such as smoking and increased levels of bad, or low density, cholesterol, strongly predict whether they will develop heart disease after menopause," said Dr. Sutton-Tyrrell. "It's very likely that young, pre-menopausal women who modify these factors will decrease later development of heart disease."
The study, involving 219 women in their late 50s and early 60s, found that measurements of vascular disease in carotid arteries, or in the aorta, strongly correlated with the extent of disease in coronary arteries.
"We are excited about our findings for the management of post-menopausal women
because we know that vascular disease generally appears in the aorta and the
carotid artery before it appears in the heart," added Dr. Sutton-Tyrrell. "By
detecting early vascular disease in the aorta or carotids, we may be able to
predict who is at risk for coronary artery disease. By modifying risk factors
in these women, we may be able to delay the development of heart disease or
prevent it altogether in post-menopausal women. These steps could significantly
decrease the incidence of heart attacks in this population. We hope to study
these women for as long as possible so we can further explore these
Contact: Franki Williams
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center