• Vol. 37 No. 1, 54–62
  • 15 January 2008

Menopause, Hormone Therapy and Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Disease



Introduction: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and morbidity among postmenopausal women, and oestrogen deficiency may be an important factor in its development. The role of oestrogen replacement in preventing cardiovascular disease is controversial. The aim of this descriptive review is to analyse the available data and to recommend evidence-based practice guidelines pertaining to hormone therapy in the context of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health.

Materials and Methods: Relevant clinical trials were identified by computerised literature search. The collated data were presented to fellow gynaecologists for review, analysis of results and discussion in a series of meetings dedicated to finding the best evidence in menopause management. The evidence was used to formulate clinical practice guidelines for the management of women with significant cardiovascular risk factors.

Results: Evidence from animal studies and observational trials supported a cardio-protective effect of postmenopausal hormone therapy. More recent randomised clinical trial data have shown no significant reduction of coronary heart disease, and have confirmed a higher incidence of stroke and venous thromboembolism.

Conclusions: The evidence is widely divergent regarding postmenopausal hormone therapy and cardiovascular risk. More consistent data are available reporting an increased risk in the incidence of venous thromboembolism and stroke. It is important to be clear about the indications of hormone use and to utilise alternative modalities to promote cardiovascular health in the postmenopausal population.

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of morbidity among postmenopausal women. Up to the age of 50 years, the prevalence of coronary artery disease (CAD) among women is lower than among men, but the incidence rises significantly after the menopause.

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