Women before menopause are at relatively lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared with agematched men and after menopause this gender advantage disappears. Androgen has been known to be an independent factor contributing to the higher male susceptibility to CVD, through adverse effects on lipids, blood pressure, and glucose metabolism. High androgen levels also contribute to CVD development in women with polycystic ovary syndrome as well as androgen abusing athletes and body builders. On the other hand, decline in androgen levels, as a result of ageing in men, is associated with hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Postmenopausal women, particularly those with oophorectomy are generally in low levels of sex hormones and androgen insufficiency is independently associated with the higher incidence of atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women. Androgen testosterone therapy (ATT) has been commonly used to improve well-being and libido in aging men with low androgen levels. The therapy has been demonstrated also to effectively reduce atherogenesis in these people. The use of ATT in postmenopausal women has increased in recent years and to date, however, the cardiovascular benefits of such therapy in these women remain uncertain. This review focuses on research regarding the impact of endogenous androgens and ATT on the cardiovascular physiology and CVD development in postmenopausal women.
Department of Medicine, Monash University Central and Eastern Clinical School, Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Prahran, Melbourne, VIC 3181, Australia.