HRT could be used to protect younger postmenopausal women from heart disease. An article published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease shows that estrogens commonly used in HRT reduce the build up of harmful oxidised lipoproteins, which can lead to heart disease, by acting as antioxidants.
It is well known that high-density lipoproteins (HDL) protect against heart disease while low-density lipoproteins (LDL) promote it. However, recent research has shown that the relationship is not that simple. The effectiveness of both types of lipoprotein change when they are oxidised by free radicals – highly reactive by-products of metabolism. If LDL becomes oxidised its ability to cause heart disease increases. If HDL becomes oxidised its ability to protect against heart disease is lessened.
Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital, part of the University of Toronto, have shown that estrogens can act as antioxidants, which neutralise free radicals, and hence protect HDL from oxidation. In addition, high levels of HDL are able to protect LDL from oxidation, and this ability is strongly enhanced when estrogens are present.
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