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      Menopause is associated with endothelial dysfunction in women.

      Acetylcholine, pharmacology, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Endothelium, Vascular, physiology, Estrogens, Female, Humans, Hypertension, physiopathology, Male, Menopause, Middle Aged, Nitroprusside, Vasodilation

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          To evaluate the effect of endogenous estrogens on endothelial function in humans, we examined whether menopause is associated with impairment in endothelium-dependent vasodilation in normotensive and essential hypertensive women. In 73 normotensive subjects (37 women, 36 men) and 73 hypertensive patients (36 women, 37 men), we studied endothelial function by measuring forearm blood flow modifications (strain-gauge plethysmography) induced by intrabrachial acetylcholine (0.15, 0.45, 1.5, 4.5, and 15 micrograms/100 mL per minute), an endothelium-dependent vasodilator, and sodium nitroprusside (1,2, and 4 micrograms/100 mL per minute), an endothelium-independent vasodilator. Women younger than 45 years had normal menstrual cycles. In essential hypertensive patients, responses to acetylcholine but not to sodium nitroprusside were significantly (P < .001) reduced compared with responses in normotensive subjects. Moreover, in both groups, vasodilation to acetylcholine showed a marked negative correlation with advancing age (normotensive subjects: r = -.88, P < .001; hypertensive patients: r = -.87, P < .001). In contrast, vasodilation to sodium nitroprusside showed a less evident negative correlation with advancing age (normotensive subjects: r = -46, P < .01; hypertensive patients: r = -.48, P < .01). However, in normally menstruating normotensive women, no endothelial dysfunction was observed, and age-related impairment in endothelium-dependent vasodilation was evident only after menopause. In normally menstruating hypertensive women, aging was associated with endothelial dysfunction although the deterioration of endothelium-dependent vasodilation was less marked than that in men. In contrast, after menopause, the age-related endothelial dysfunction in hypertensive women was similar to that observed in men. Finally, no sex-related difference in the response to sodium nitroprusside was observed in either normotensive subjects or essential hypertensive patients. Age-related endothelial dysfunction is attenuated in premenopausal normotensive and hypertensive women compared with men, whereas no sex-induced difference is observed after menopause, suggesting a protective effect of endogenous estrogens on endothelial function.

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