Endogenous Sex Hormones and Endothelial Function in Postmenopausal Women and Men: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Lena Mathews, Vinita Subramanya, Di Zhao, Pamela Ouyang, Dhananjay Vaidya, Eliseo Guallar, Joseph Yeboah, David Herrington, Allison G. Hays, Matthew J. Budoff, Erin D. Michos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The relationship of endogenous sex hormones (SH) with vascular endothelial function and with cardiovascular disease (CVD) is incompletely understood. We examined the associations between SH and endothelial function measured by brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD). Materials and Methods: We included 1368 postmenopausal women and 1707 men, free of clinical CVD, participating in MESA Visit 1 (2000-2002). Serum SH [total testosterone, SH binding globulin (SHBG), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), estradiol] were measured; free testosterone was calculated. The percent FMD difference (%FMD) was measured by high-resolution ultrasound. Using multivariable-adjusted linear regression, we tested the cross-sectional associations of SH (log transformed, compared per one SD increment) with %FMD. Results: The mean age of women and men were 64.2 and 61.4 years, respectively. Among women, after adjusting for demographics, CVD risk factors, and hormone therapy, higher SHBG was associated with greater %FMD [β = 0.215% (95% CI 0.026-0.405)], whereas higher free testosterone was associated with a smaller %FMD [-0.209% (-0.402, -0.017)]. Estradiol and DHEA were not associated with %FMD in women after multivariable adjustment. There was an age interaction, with higher free testosterone and lower SHBG associated with worse FMD in women <65 years of age, but not in those ≥65 years (p = 0.04). We did not see similar associations in men. Conclusions: A more androgenic SH profile of higher free testosterone and lower SHBG was associated with worse %FMD in postmenopausal women. Changes in SH with aging and menopause may result in vascular changes in women. Further studies are needed to assess longitudinal changes in SH levels and their association with vascular function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)900-909
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • cardiovascular disease
  • endothelial function
  • menopause
  • sex hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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