May 31, 2022

UCalgary researchers recruit for new study to improve women's heart health

Study investigates link between post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy and cardiovascular health
Nabilah Gulamhusein
Nabilah Gulamhusein is an MSc student seeking recruits for a study on women's cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death in women in Canada, claiming the life of a woman every 20 minutes. Controlling blood pressure offers an important way to lower this risk. A new study will help women and their health-care providers choose the care that is right for them.

Globally, 60,000 individuals become menopausal daily and 80 per cent live with symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression that last for an average of seven years. 

The best treatment for these symptoms is postmenopausal hormone therapy. However, there are concerns about the potential risk these therapies may have on cardiovascular health. Recent studies suggest that the way postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy is administered may be an important consideration when evaluating this risk.

Nabilah Gulamhusein, an MSc student at the Cumming School of Medicine in the Libin Cardiovascular Institute lab of clinician-scientist Dr. Sofia Ahmed, MD, is looking for answers on this topic. She is looking at whether the route of administration of hormone replacement therapy changes a postmenopausal person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. 

“Non-oral hormone therapy, taken through a cream or patch, may affect the cardiovascular system differently than oral (taken by mouth) hormone therapy, because the way it metabolizes is different,” she says. 

Women's cardiovascular health 'understudied' to date

Gulamhusein hopes to recruit individuals between the ages of 46 and 60 who have completed the menopausal transition and are taking any kind of postmenopausal hormone therapy. 

“We will measure and compare the blood pressure and vessel stiffness between the groups,” says Gulamhusein. “By enrolling in this study, participants will help us advance our knowledge about postmenopausal individuals’ cardiovascular health and ultimately help other women make decisions about their own health and what is right for them.” 

Ahmed says this study is part of a larger effort in her lab to more broadly understand women’s cardiovascular risk, a topic that she says needs further research. 

“Traditionally, females have been understudied in the area of cardiovascular health,” she says. “It’s critical that we better understand how female-specific experiences, such as pregnancy and menopause, may impact cardiovascular health, especially given the fact that cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of premature death for Canadian women.” 

It’s estimated that by 2025, more than one billion women worldwide will be menopausal. The average age of onset of menopause is 51. 

For more information or to participate in the study, email or call 403-210-7434.

Nabilah Gulamhusein is an MSc student in the Department of Medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine. 

Sofia Ahmed is a professor in the Department of Medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and is a member of the O’Brien Institute of Public Health and the Libin Cardiovascular Institute at the CSM. She leads the Libin Cardiovascular Institute’s Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative.