Sex hormone levels 'could affect heart disease risk'
A new study has indicated that women's sex hormone levels could have an effect on their risk of heart disease in later years. The Johns Hopkins University research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, has suggested that having a higher blood level of the male hormone testosterone - and a higher ratio of this substance compared to the female hormone oestrogen - is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women. A total of 2,834 postmenopausal women were followed over a 12-year period for this study, revealing that a higher testosterone-to-oestradiol ratio was associated with an elevated risk for incident cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and heart failure. Higher total testosterone was also linked to an increased risk for coronary heart disease and total cardiovascular disease, while higher oestradiol levels were associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Senior study author Dr Erin Michos, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said:
"Although sex hormone levels may be linked to future cardiovascular events, it is unclear what the best intervention is to modify sex hormone levels for risk reduction. "However, a sex hormone profile higher in male hormones may identify a woman at higher risk for cardiovascular disease who may benefit from other risk reduction strategies."
The risk for cardiovascular disease is generally much lower in females compared to males, until women reach the age of 50. At this point, the risk is likely to rise dramatically after menopause, with previous studies having also shown that sex hormones may play a role in this. More research will now be needed to determine how the hormonal environment affects cellular and organ functions that drive cardiovascular disease in women as they age, as this will allow new therapeutic strategies to be developed.