Influence of the perimenopause on cardiovascular risk factors and symptoms of middle-aged healthy women

K A Matthews, R R Wing, L H Kuller, E N Meilahn, P Plantinga
Archives of Internal Medicine 1994 October 24, 154 (20): 2349-55

OBJECTIVE: To determine the changes in cardiovascular risk factors and psychological and physical symptoms that occur during the perimenopause.

DESIGN: Cohort study of 541 healthy middle-aged premenopausal women followed up through the menopause.

SETTING: General community.

PARTICIPANTS: After a baseline evaluation taken at study entry, 152 women ceased menstruating for 3 months (not due to surgery) and were not using hormone replacement therapy, and were reevaluated in a similar protocol (perimenopausal examination); 105 of the 152 were evaluated a third time when they had ceased menstruating for 12 months and were not using hormone replacement therapy (postmenopausal examination). One hundred nine premenopausal women who were repeatedly tested constituted a comparison group.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Levels of lipids and lipoproteins, triglycerides, fasting glucose and insulin, blood pressure, weight, height, and standardized measures of psychological symptoms.

RESULTS: Women who became perimenopausal showed increased levels of cardiovascular risk factors, which were similar in magnitude to those experienced by the comparison group of premenopausal women. Perimenopausal women reported a greater number of symptoms, especially hot flashes, cold sweats, joint pain, aches in the skull and/or neck, and being forgetful; reports of hot flashes at the perimenopausal examination were associated with low concentrations of serum estrogens. Menopausal status was not associated with depressive symptoms. Perimenopausal women who became postmenopausal showed a decline in the level of high-density lipoprotein-2-cholesterol (means, 0.53 to 0.43 mmol/L [20.6 to 16.7 mg/dL]) and a gradual increase in the level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (means, 3.14 to 3.33 mmol/L [121.3 to 128.8 mg/dL]), whereas symptom reporting declined.

CONCLUSIONS: During mid-life, women experience adverse changes in cardiovascular risk factors and a temporary increase in total number of reported symptoms, with no change in depression. Preventive efforts to reduce the menopause-induced increase in cardiovascular risk factors should begin early in the menopausal transition.

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