OBJECTIVE: As associations between endogenous sex hormones and the vasculature are not well characterized, the objective was to examine the cross-sectional associations of menopausal status and endogenous sex hormones with vascular characteristics. DESIGN: Common carotid artery adventitial diameter and intima-media thickness were determined using B-mode ultrasonography among 483 middle-aged women enrolled in the Pittsburgh and Chicago sites of the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation. RESULTS: Sixty-two percent of women were pre- or early perimenopausal (<3 mo amenorrhea), 12% were late perimenopausal (3-12 mo amenhorrhea), and 27% were postmenopausal (≥12 mo amenorrhea). After adjustment for age, compared with pre-/early perimenopause, late perimenopause was associated with a 0.28-mm larger adventitial diameter (P = 0.001), whereas postmenopause was associated with a 0.15-mm larger adventitial diameter (P = 0.040). Adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors slightly attenuated these associations, but the association with late perimenopause remained statistically significant (P = 0.001). Each SD lower log estradiol value was associated with a 0.07-mm larger adventitial diameter after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors (P = 0.023), whereas other endogenous hormones showed no associations. Intima-media thickness values were not significantly associated with menopausal status or endogenous sex hormones after adjustment for age. CONCLUSIONS: The menopausal transition and declining estrogen levels are associated with alterations of the peripheral vasculature, which may help to explain the increased risk of cardiovascular disease with postmenopause.
- Endogenous sex hormones