Abstract # 80:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2007 08:15 AM-09:15 AM: (North Main Hall) Featured Speaker

What Monkeys Can Teach Us About the Role of Behavior and Evolution in Women's Health

J. Kaplan
Wake Forest Univ. School of Medicine, Dept. of Pathology/Comparative Medicine, Medical Center Blvd., Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1040, USA
     Menopause is recognized as a period of increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) and osteoporosis, conditions often attributed to the naturally occurring estrogen deficiency characteristic of this part of the life cycle. However, it can be argued that premenopausal reductions in endogenous estrogen – as occasioned by functional ovarian abnormalities – are similarly pathogenic and can prematurely accelerate the development of CHD and osteoporosis, thereby increasing the health burden of older women. These functional abnormalities, which occur along a continuum from mild to severe, are relatively common and are often attributed to psychogenic factors (“stress”), exercise, or energy imbalance. Although commented on by numerous investigators, such functional deficits can be difficult to diagnose and, because they are often subclinical, are generally unappreciated for the contribution they may make to postmenopausal disease. Studies in nonhuman primates confirm that these deficits are easily induced by psychological stress and exercise, and show that in the presence of a typical Western diet they accelerate the development of postmenopausal cardiovascular disease and bone loss. However, functional reproductive deficits are also reversible and are thus potentially amenable to environmental or behavioral intervention. Finally data from both women and nonhuman primates support the hypothesis that functional reproductive deficits are adaptive when triggered appropriately, but detrimental when activated in an environment (e.g., sedentary lifestyle, high fat diet) permissive to the development of chronic disease. Supported in part by HL45666 and HL 79421.