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16 September 2008
Male sex hormones raise heart risk
by George Atkinson

Men are more likely to die of heart disease than women of a similar age and sex hormones are to blame, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Study leader Maciej Tomaszewski suggests that this "male disadvantage" is likely related to the sex-specific effects of naturally occurring sex hormones.

The research, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, looked at ways that the sex hormones - estradiol, estrone, testosterone and androstenedione - interacted with three major risk factors of heart disease (cholesterol, blood pressure and weight). It was established that two of these sex hormones (estradiol and estrone, known as estrogens) are linked to increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in men.

Based on these findings, Tomaszewski contends that certain sex hormones may be important risk factors of heart disease in men - even before symptoms of coronary artery disease or stroke become apparent. "We hypothesized that circulating concentrations of sex hormones were associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors in men long before any apparent manifestations of cardiovascular disease such as stroke or myocardial infarction," says Tomaszewski.

Interestingly, the demonstrated associations between cholesterol and estrogens were independent of other sex hormones (testosterone and androstenedione), age, body weight, blood pressure and other possibly confounding factors.

"Why natural endogenous estrogens that are generally seen as cardio-protective in women increase cardiovascular risk in men remains to be elucidated. Future prospective studies are needed to confirm that higher levels of endogenous estrogens in youth increase the risk of heart disease later in man's life," concluded Tomaszewski.

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Source: University of Leicester

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