SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • androgens;
  • cardiovascular disease;
  • diabetes;
  • hypertension;
  • women

Normal women produce small amounts of active androgens. When androgen levels are elevated, such as for example in the polycystic ovary syndrome, this is followed by the development of male physical characteristics of muscle mass, structure and function as well as android adipose tissue distribution and function. Psychological features and stress reactions also seem similar to those of men. Such women have an increased risk of developing hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Recent data have shown that these physical, and psychological characteristics, as well as risk of ill health, are also found in the population of women selected at random. Women in the lowest quintiles of levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin – an indicator inversely related to active androgens – are at risk of developing hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular mortality. The mechanism probably includes muscular insulin resistance, following a relative androgen excess.

It is thus apparent that androgens, even within the highest levels of the nonselected population of women, are powerful predictors of serious disease development. The population at risk might be as large as about 20% of middle-aged women. This is an area of female disease risk which requires more attention in screening and intervention procedures.