After menopause, cardiovascular diseases become the leading cause of death in women
- August 25, 2023
- Publicado por: ACCDIS
- Category: Without category
Two ACCDiS researchers have carried out studies on the possible origin of cardiovascular and cardiac diseases in menopausal women. In this month of the heart we call for self-care and the practice of a healthy life.
In August, Heart Month is commemorated , a date that seeks to raise international awareness about the prevention of heart and cardiovascular diseases, and the importance of promoting a healthy lifestyle. According to 2021 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death, causing nearly 30,000 deaths per year.
Cardiovascular diseases affect a greater number of women than men. Valentina Parra Ortiz , PhD in Biochemistry, academic at the Faculty of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Chile and researcher at the Advanced Center for Chronic Diseases (ACCDiS ) has especially studied the relationship between women and the risk of suffering from any heart or cardiovascular disease. “In Chile, the main cause of death among women of reproductive age is breast cancer. However, it is observed that when menopause occurs, heart and cardiovascular diseases take first place ,” reveals Parra, who is also an associate professor at the Faculty of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Chile.
This phenomenon has been detected for a long time by the scientific community. One of the explanations put forward by the specialist is the presence of estrogens. “Estrogens are fundamental hormones in the maintenance of the menstrual cycle, in the ability to give birth and have children. Likewise, they account for all the secondary sexual characteristics of women, which are expressed in adolescence, such as the high-pitched voice, the hormonal menstrual cycle of 28 to 30 days, the hips become wider and the waist more refined, the absence of of facial hair, among others” , he details .
“Estrogens arise from metabolism, generated from cholesterol. Men also produce this hormone, but in low amounts. In the case of women of childbearing age, estrogens appear very high and these hormones have a cardioprotective effect,” adds the associate researcher at the Systemix Center for Systems Biology (Systemix Center).
These hormones begin to decline over the years, mainly from the menopausal stage. “ Women are born with a limited ovarian reserve. When you enter menopause, estrogen levels drop and the incidence of heart and cardiovascular diseases increases ,” she says.
The androgen factor
Claudia Muñoz Rodríguez , pharmaceutical chemist, PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Chile and postdoctoral fellow at the same Research Center, has a complementary vision . Her work focuses on the study of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, a type of heart failure for which no pharmacological treatment is currently available, and which mainly affects women of menopausal age.
His hypothesis states that cardiovascular and cardiac diseases are not only due to the lack of estrogens, but also to the predominance of androgens over estrogens. “Androgens are the male sex hormones, but women also have less of them, like testosterone and androsterone. There is an enzyme called aromatase that is responsible for transforming male hormones into female ones. One of my strategies is to use an inhibitor of this enzyme to increase the proportion of androgens and simulate what is observed during menopause at a cardiovascular level” , she reflects.
A particular case occurs in women who have a polycystic ovary, those who have an excess of androgens. Among the characteristics are the appearance of facial hair, acne, weight gain, as well as being more prone to heart disease.
Healthy life style
Menopause is a natural process of life, as is the loss of estrogens and the increase in the proportion of androgens. However, what we can do is prepare ourselves to reach that stage in the best possible way and thus avoid possible heart and cardiovascular diseases. For example, through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity, healthy eating, not consuming tobacco or alcohol are recommended, in addition to avoiding the onset of chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.