Epidemiological studies have shown that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is less common in pre-menopausal women (Pre-MW) compared to men of the same age or post-menopausal women (Post-MW), suggesting cardiovascular benefits of estrogen. Estrogen receptors (ERs) have been identified in the vasculature, and experimental studies have demonstrated vasodilator effects of estrogen/ER on the endothelium, vascular smooth muscle (VSM) and extracellular matrix. Several natural and synthetic estrogenic preparations have been developed for relief of menopausal vasomotor symptoms. However, whether menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is beneficial in postmenopausal CVD remains controversial. Despite reports of vascular benefits of MHT from observational and experimental studies, randomized clinical trials (RCTs), such as the Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study (HERS) and the Womens Health Initiative (WHI), have suggested that, contrary to expectations, MHT may increase the risk of CVD. These discrepancies could be due to agerelated changes in sex hormone synthesis and metabolism, which would influence the effective dose of MHT and the sex hormone environment in Post-MW. Age-related changes in the vascular ER subtype, structure, expression, distribution, and post-ER signaling pathways in the endothelium and VSM, along with factors related to the design of RCTs, preexisting CVD condition, and structural changes in the blood vessels architecture have also been suggested as possible causes of MHT failure in CVD. Careful examination of these factors should help in identifying the causes of the changes in the vascular effects of estrogen with age. The sex hormone metabolic pathways, the active versus inactive estrogen metabolites, and their effects on vascular function, the mitochondria, the inflammatory process and angiogenesis should be further examined. Also, the genomic and non-genomic effects of estrogenic compounds should be viewed as integrated rather than discrete responses. The complex interactions between these factors highlight the importance of careful design of MHT RCTs, and the need of a more customized approach for each individual patient in order to enhance the vascular benefits of MHT in postmenopausal CVD.
Keywords: Estrogen, phytoestrogens, estrogen receptor, endothelium, vascular smooth muscle, hypertension, progesterone, testosterone, CVD, HTN, Pre-MW, SHBG, menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), equine estrogen (CEE), vascular smooth muscle (VSM), ex-tracellular matrix (ECM), selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene nucleus, testicular Sertoli, Leydig cells, adipose stroma, preimplantation blastocysts, fetoplacental steroid biosynthesis, dehydroepiandrosterone, S-16-OH-DHEA, E2-valerate, E3-succinate, ethinyl-E2 sulfonate, mestranol, quinestrol, Diethylstilbestrol, flavonoids (flavones, flavonols and flavanones), isoflavonoids (isoflavones and coumestanes), enterolactone, Xenoestrogens, methoxy-chlor, endosulfan, lindane, herbicides, polychlorinated, PhytoSERMs, Fe-marelle (DT56a), propylpyrazole triol, ER, diarylpropionitrile, methyl-piperidinopyrazole, fulvestrant, prostacyclin (PGI2), VSM PKC, Rho-kinase expres-sion, ACE, COMT, eNOS
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