Postmenopausal factors can affect the heart’s protecting characteristics of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), also referred to as ‘good cholesterol,’ as reported by a study carried out by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health, in the United States.
The results, released Thursday in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, suggests that this particular cholesterol type might not result in a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases in the elderly women.
“The results of our study are particularly attractive to the public and physicians because total HDL cholesterol is still used to predict the risk of cardiovascular disease. This study suggests that doctors need to look more closely at the HDL level in middle-aged and older women because higher HDL cholesterol is not always protective in postmenopausal women as previously thought. The high level of HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women may mask a significant risk of heart disease that we still need to understand,” said the study’s lead author, Samar R. El Khoudary, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Epidemiology.
Elevated HDL ‘good cholesterol’ levels in postmenopausal women increase risks of cardiovascular diseases
The study indicates that the standard measurement of good cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, does not represent an accurate depiction of the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women. The researchers theorize that the decline in estrogen, a cardiovascular-protective sex hormone in women, along with a variety of other metabolic alterations, can cause chronic inflammation, which can impair the HDL quality.
In contrast, high HDL levels are linked to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease in the earlier phases of menopause. Over this period, the HDL quality may decline, raising the likelihood that women will get atherosclerosis or cardiovascular diseases.
As women drift away from that transitional phase between menopause and postmenopause, the HDL quality can be re-established, restoring heart-protective properties of good cholesterol like before.