Health.com published an article today that summarizes the findings of a recent study on menopause and cholesterol that shows women's cholesterol levels increase at the time of menopause. The study's abstract can be found here, at the Journal of the American College of Cardiology site.
It isn't news that cholesterol and other risks of heart disease increase as women age, but the study wanted to determine if the cholesterol increase was due to simple aging, or more specifically related to menopause. They found that within two years of a woman's last period, her LDL cholesterol (so-called bad cholesterol) jumps about 10 points. This increase may be small, but if a woman already has elevated cholesterol, it could be problematic. Additionally, since other risk factors for heart disease increase with age, this increase in cholesterol could team with other cardio-related age affects to create an increased risk of heart problems. The study authors suggest that peri-menopausal women take this news under advisement and become even more vigilant about their diet and exercise routines.
This study is not only interesting because of the findings, but also because of the methodology they employed; the researchers used self-reported data from a national health registry to conduct their study. The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is very akin to our state based registry, the Illinois Women's Health Registry (if you live in Illinois, go join!). Analysis of these surveys and normal everyday women who participated pulled out this very interesting finding. It's quite clear that this is a great example of why gender-based research is so necessary, study of cholesterol rates in an all-male study group would never have discovered this connection! Finally, the study concluded that the link between increased cholesterol and menopause was true for most ethnicities...because they included women from many ethnicities! It's amazing how much more we learn when diverse participants are used for clinical research studies!