OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to determine the pattern of reactivity to stress in premenopausal and postmenopausal women and to assess the effects of estrogen. STUDY DESIGN: A behavioral stress test was given to premenopausal (n = 13) and postmenopausal women (n = 36). Biophysical and neuroendocrine responses were measured during and on completion of the stress test. The postmenopausal women were then randomized to placebo or transdermal estradiol treatment for 6 weeks, at which time another behavioral stress test was given. RESULTS: Stress reactivity to math and speech tasks elicited significantly greater systolic blood pressure responses in postmenopausal women compared with premenopausal women (p < 0.05). On retesting, significant biophysical responses that were present during the initial stress testing were still present (p < 0.05) in the placebo group but were blunted with estrogen treatment. Plasma corticotropin, cortisol, and rostenedione, and norepinephrine increased during testing to a similar degree in premenopausal and postmenopausal women; this response was maintained after placebo treatment. Postmenopausal women treated with estrogen had blunted responses. CONCLUSION: Significant differences in responses to psychologic stress exist in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. The lack of adaptation may account in part for the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. Estrogen appears to blunt the stress-induced response.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Obstetrics and Gynecology