• apolipoproteins;
  • cardiovascular disease;
  • cholesterol;
  • insulin;
  • menopause;
  • risk factor

Abstract Peters HW, Westendorp ICD, Hak AE, Grobbee DE, Stehouwer CDA, Hofman A, Witteman JCM (Erasmus University Medical School, Rotterdam; Utrecht University, Utrecht; Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Menopausal status and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Intern Med 1999; 246: 521–528.

Objectives. Changes in cardiovascular risk factors with menopausal status are difficult to study, owing to the high correlation of menopausal status with age. Therefore we examined cardiovascular risk factors in a meticulously selected population in which the contrast in oestrogen status between pre- and postmenopausal women of the same age was maximized.

Design. Risk factors were compared in 93 premenopausal and 93 postmenopausal women who were matched on age (range 43–55 years).

Setting. The women were selected from respondents to a mailed questionnaire about the menopause, which was sent to all women aged 40–60 years in the Dutch town of Zoetermeer (n = 12 675; response 54%).

Subjects. Postmenopausal women who were at least 3 years after menopause or whose menses had stopped naturally before age 48 were age-matched with premenopausal women with regular menses and without menopausal complaints.

Results. Compared to premenopausal women, postmenopausal women had significantly increased levels of total cholesterol (10.0%, 95% confidence interval 5.1–14.0), low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (14.0%, 6.9–19.9), and apolipoprotein B (8.2%, 0.6–15.5). The difference was present within 3 years after onset of menopause and did not show a trend towards an increase with the number of postmenopausal years. No differences were found in high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, apolipoprotein A1, blood glucose, insulin, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Conclusions. The results of this study add to the evidence that total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B are the primary cardiovascular risk factors affected by menopause.