Menopausal Transition Status and Vascular Responses to Exercise

Open Access
Tucker, Steven Howard
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • David Nathan Proctor, Thesis Supervisor
  • Stephen Jacob Piazza, Honors Advisor
  • vasodilation
  • limb blood flow
  • exercise
  • menopause
  • accelerometer
OBJECTIVE: To determine if menopausal transition status and fitness influence peripheral vascular responses to dynamic leg exercise. DESIGN: Healthy women were grouped according to early perimenopausal (n=16, 48±4 yrs), late perimenopausal (n=12, 50±3yrs), and early postmenopausal (n=12, 54±3 yrs) status based on self-reported menstrual bleeding history and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) concentration. Common femoral artery blood flow (FBF, Doppler ultrasound), mean arterial pressure (MAP, Finometer) and femoral vascular conductance (FVC = FBF/MAP) were measured during graded single leg knee extensor exercise. Body composition (DEXA), pulse wave velocity (PWV), cardiorespiratory fitness (treadmill VO2max) and daily physical activity (accelerometer) were also measured. RESULTS: Peri- and post-menopausal group averages for vascular responses to exercise did not differ. However, among perimenopausal women, differences in submaximal FBF and FVC responses to knee extensor exercise were observed between early and late stages (early > late, p≤0.05). Multivariate stepwise regression identified FSH as the best predictor of the differences in FVC (r=-0.44, p≤0.05) and FBF (r=-0.45, p≤0.05) during submaximal exercise in early and late perimenopausal women. Also, there were differences in peak FBF and FVC when normalized to peak power. Multivariate stepwise regression identified systemic cardiorespiratory fitness as the best predictor of peak leg exercise vasodilation. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that ovarian hormone dynamics, cardiorespiratory fitness, and inflammatory status can influence the rise in blood flow to exercising skeletal muscles in mid-life women. Menopausal women who maintain an active lifestyle and high fitness level may prevent perimenopausal reductions in peak leg vasodilation during exercise but another intervention may be needed to prevent attenuation of leg hemodynamic responses during submaximal leg exercise.