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Impact of ovarian function on cardiovascular health in women: focus on hypertension

Authors Maric-Bilkan C, Gilbert EL, Ryan MJ

Received 11 October 2013

Accepted for publication 28 November 2013

Published 24 January 2014 Volume 2014:6 Pages 131—139


Checked for plagiarism Yes

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Peer reviewer comments 4

Christine Maric-Bilkan,1 Emily L Gilbert,2 Michael J Ryan2

1Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD, 2Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS, USA

Abstract: Arterial blood pressure levels and the prevalence of hypertension are generally lower in premenopausal women compared with age-matched men. The lower blood pressure levels in premenopausal women are associated with a lower risk of the development and progression of cardiovascular disease. In contrast, menopause, a state characterized by a physiologic reduction in ovarian hormone levels, is associated with progressive increases in blood pressure and an overall increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease. These observations suggest an association between blood pressure regulation and changes in ovarian hormone levels, estrogens in particular. In addition to menopause, the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease is also dramatically increased in premenopausal women with chronic diseases such as diabetes and systemic lupus erythematosus. Studies suggest that these chronic diseases may be associated with an imbalance in ovarian hormones, which may explain the increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in these women. However, the use of hormone therapy to manage the risk and prevent the development of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases in women remains controversial. The precise mechanisms by which estrogens contribute to the regulation of blood pressure are still not completely understood. However, accumulating evidence suggests that modulating the activity of locally active hormone systems is one of the major mechanisms by which estrogens exert their effects on target organs, including the vasculature, kidneys, and immune system. In particular, the interaction between estrogens and the renin-angiotensin system has been implicated in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular function in both humans and experimental models. This review summarizes our current understanding of the mechanisms by which estrogens regulate blood pressure and the potential use of hormone therapy in prevention of hypertension and consequent cardiovascular risk.

blood pressure, ovarian hormones, menopause, cardiovascular risk

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