Menopause increases aneurysm risk - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Menopause increases aneurysm risk

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(12/05/12) - Women's changing bodies could be putting them at risk for a silent killer. Doctors have discovered a surprising link between menopause and aneurysms.

Brain aneurysms rupture in about 30,000 people every year, killing many. Women are at a higher risk.  

"The left side of my body got numb," and Sande Skinner says she immediately thought she was having a stroke.

"It didn't feel right," she says of what turned out to be a brain aneurysm.

The bulging artery in Sande's brain is very large. "The little sucker is right behind my right optic nerve."

If they rupture, brain aneurysms can lead to stroke or death. Risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure and possibly lower estrogen levels caused by menopause. Two of the largest brain aneurysm trials in the world found most happen in menopausal women

"Average age of rupture of all patients with aneurysms is age 52, which just so happens to be the average age of menopause," says Dr. Michael Chen of Rush University.

Chen says severe drops in estrogen may contribute to the weakening of artery walls. He conducted a study of 60 women with aneurysms, and found, compared to the general population, they were less likely to have taken birth control or to be on hormone replacement therapy.

He believes estrogen treatments could help prevent women from developing aneurysms. "Protect them from the effects of these severe changes and hormones on their blood vessels."

Now, the doctor is enrolling a new trial to put his theory to the test. He will use low-dose hormone replacement therapy in pre-menopausal women in hopes of stopping aneurysms from forming.

After three surgeries and several stents, Sande's aneurysm is no longer a threat. "I'm still walking and talking."

Dr. Chen hopes his research will help wipe out the threat for every woman. His study will start off with about 40 to 50 women, with both treated and untreated aneurysms.  The plan is to eventually expand into a multi-center trial around the country.

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