A recent study showed that overweight postmenopausalwomen with high blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL;"bad") cholesterol face the increased risk of atherosclerosis.The study included 21 postmenopausal women (average age55 years) and 10 premenopausal women (average age 23years). Despite being healthy, all the participants were inactive.The researchers found that the carotid arteries of thewomen in the postmenopausal group were 56% less elastic,compared with those in the control group—meaning anincreased risk for cardiovascular events such as stroke.
One explanation for the hardening of the arteries mayinvolve oxidative stress on cells, which is higher after estrogenproduction drops significantly following menopause.Oxidative stress also may be the result of low levels ofhealthy antioxidants in the body. Furthermore, many postmenopausalwomen experience a shift in body fat that resultsin more fat in the abdomen, according to the researchers. Theaccumulation of abdominal fat can cause the body's sympatheticnervous system to become more active and can resultin a decrease in arterial responsiveness.
"Taken together, all these factors—increased abdominalfat, elevated sympathetic nervous system activity, higher LDLcholesterol, and loss of estrogen—produce oxidative stress,which, in turn, contributes to a loss of elasticity in arteries,"reported study coauthor Kerrie L. Moreau, PhD, in Hypertension(May 2, 2005).