Men and heart attacks – It’s the hormones

September 10, 2008

Sex, or to be fair, hormones are now shown to be the reason why men are more prone to – and likely to die of – heart disease compared with women of a similar age. I thought it was just they worked harder, and worried more, but am always happy to be proved wrong! A new study from the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester, suggest that this “male disadvantage” may be related to the effects of their naturally occurring sex hormones, and yes they do have more than one: estradiol, estrone, testosterone and androstenedione. The researchers studied how each of these interacted with the three major risk factors of heart disease: cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. For once, it is not testosterone that is in the dock because they found that two of these sex hormones (estradiol and estrone, both oestrogens) are linked to increased levels of bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) and low levels of good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) in men and that they may be important risk factors of heart disease – even before men present symptoms of coronary artery disease or stroke.

In women, oestrogen helps protect women from heart disease so why it affects men differently is interesting – but the research didn’t throw up why this happens, only that it does. However, men concerned about their heart health could ask their doctor for a blood test to determine their level of these two oestrogens to see if they are at risk.


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