Associations of endogenous sex hormones with carotid plaque burden and characteristics in midlife women.

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Endogenous sex hormones may be involved in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women. Carotid plaque characteristics, such as echogenicity, an ultrasound measure that reflects plaque composition, may identify unstable plaques that are more likely to rupture, precipitating a CVD event. However, few studies have considered sex steroids in relation to carotid plaque and its characteristics.To evaluate estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), testosterone (T), sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), and free T (FT) in relation to carotid plaque in women.In MsHeart, a cross-sectional study of 304 women aged 40-60 years, participants underwent a carotid artery ultrasound assessment. The current analysis included MsHeart participants with carotid plaque (n=141, 46%). E1, E2, and T were assayed using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry; FT was estimated using ensemble allostery models. Regression models were adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics and CVD risk factors.Carotid plaque burden (number of plaques, total plaque area [TPA]) and characteristics (calcification, echogenicity) were determined using semi-automated software.SHBG was inversely related to TPA [OR(95% CI)=0.39 (0.21, 0.74), multivariable] and higher FT were associated with greater TPA [OR(95% CI)=2.89(1.31, 6.37), multivariable]. Higher E1 was related to echogenicity [OR (95% CI)=2.31(1.26, 4.33), multivariable], characteristic of more stable plaque.SHBG and FT are related to TPA while E1 is related to plaque echogenicity, suggesting these hormones have different roles in the development of carotid plaque. Our findings highlight the importance of sex hormones in the development of carotid plaque in midlife women.

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