Special section: Cardiovascular connections: The ovarian connection

Special section: Cardiovascular connections

The ovarian connection

As tiny hormone factories, the ovaries have a substantial effect on a woman's cardiovascular health. Until menopause, the ovaries churn out a steady stream of estrogen and other hormones. These hormones help keep arteries supple, one reason why women develop heart disease an average of 10 years later than men.

Added estrogen, progesterone, and other so-called female hormones are a different story. Taking birth control pills increases the chances of having a deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. Use of estrogen and progesterone after menopause increases the chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or blood clot. Low doses of estrogen, perhaps delivered through the skin, could help prevent heart disease, but that is still being investigated.

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