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According to the CDC (2017), more women than men have died from heart disease over the last 20-25 years. On the contrary, premenopausal women are protected against heart and cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to men. Following menopause, there is sharp rise in CVD mortality and morbidity in women compared to men indicating that women lose protection against CVD during menopause. This loss of CVD protection in women drives the CDC statistics. Life expectancy of women has now reached 82 (almost 35 years longer than at the turn of the 20th century). Yet, women typically undergo menopause at 50-60 years of age, which means that women spend over 40% of their life in menopause. Therefore, menopausal women, and associated CVD risk, must be considered as distinct from an aging or senescent woman. Despite longstanding knowledge that premenopausal women are protected from CVD, our fundamental understanding regarding the shift in CVD risk with menopause remains inadequate and impedes our ability to develop sex-specific therapeutic strategies to combat menopausal susceptibility to CVD. This review provides a critical overview of clinical trials attempting to address CVD susceptibility postmenopausal using hormone replacement therapy. Next, we outline key deficiencies in pre-clinical menopause models and introduce an alternative to overcome these deficiencies. Finally, we discuss a novel connection between AMPK and estrogen-dependent pathways that may serve as a potential solution to increased CVD susceptibility in menopausal women.
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