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The role of exercise, ageing and female sex hormones upon physiologic measures of cardiac structure and function in pre- and post-menopausal women

Why do women live longer than men? In an effort to find explanations for this global phenomenon, Amanda Nio has decided to study the impact of female sex hormones and lifestyle. Notably, one of the main female sex hormones, estrogen, is generally considered to be cardio-protective. Thus, Nio’s research will focus on the heart.
Traditionally, research on the heart has focused on cardiac function in men during rest, offering few clues on how female hormones might contribute to a healthy heart. Nio's challenge is to investigate this question by comparing heart function and muscle mechanics in men with that in pre- and post-menopausal women both at rest, and also during the physiological stress of exercise and lower body negative pressure (a laboratory technique used in her work to simulate the gravitational pull of the upright posture whilst a person is lying down for cardiac assessments). A particular focus of her research is the left ventricle, the cardiac chamber that pumps blood to the rest of the body.
Nio’s first study compares the heart in men and pre- and post-menopausal women during exercise of different intensities. In her second study, volunteers lie with their lower body in a special device to assess the response of the heart to mild negative pressures. Her final study examines the impact of menopausal status on cardiac adaptations following 12 weeks of aerobic training.
With this, Nio will determine if the onset of menopause, which is accompanied by a decline in estrogen levels and a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, also influences cardiac dynamics. Moreover, her work will examine the ability of regular physical activity to enhance cardiac function in women after the menopause. Better recommendations may then be applied to promote healthy ageing and improve quality of life in older women.
Overall, Nio will contribute to a better understanding of the ageing female heart. As life expectancy continues to rise, such knowledge is increasingly relevant to the ageing population.
My research focuses on cardiovascular function is a key determinant of longevity and quality of life. Within the ageing population, women are living longer than men, which may be explained by the cardio-protective effect of female sex hormones. However, the concentration of circulating female sex hormone estrogen begins to reduce at the onset of menopause. Menopause is part of the natural progression of the female reproductive life, and refers to the permanent cessation of menses. My PhD work seeks to contribute to the model of the ageing cardiovascular system by assessing its response to menopause in females.

The Beat of a Woman’s Heart

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University of Wales Institute


United Kingdom