Associations of endogenous sex hormones with the vasculature in menopausal women: The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN)

Rachel P. Wildman, Alicia B. Colvin, Lynda H. Powell, Karen A. Matthews, Susan A. Everson-Rose, Steven Hollenberg, Janet M. Johnston, Kim Sutton-Tyrrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-421
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Endogenous sex hormones
  • Estradiol
  • Menopause


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