Effects of hormone replacement therapy on the sympathetic nervous system and blood pressure

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2003 Jun;5(3):241-6. doi: 10.1007/s11906-003-0027-8.


Hypertension is a major health problem that significantly contributes to heart disease and stroke. While most studies of hypertension have focused on men, women also experience significant hypertension-related morbidity and mortality. However, the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease is significantly lower in premenopausal women compared with men until the onset of menopause, at which time cardiovascular disease incidence increases dramatically in women and eventually approaches that in men. These observations indicate that the loss of estrogen contributes to menopause-related increases in blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and suggest that the use of estrogen hormone replacement therapy could decrease the incidence of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. However, new findings from the Women's Health Initiative study suggest that estrogen therapy has few positive benefits and some significant negative effects on the health of postmenopausal women, and these data have caused many to abandon long-term estrogen replacement therapy. Conversely, numerous clinical and basic research studies indicate that estrogen replacement therapy beneficially reduces blood pressure, thereby decreasing the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Further, several of these studies suggest that one means by which estrogen lowers blood pressure is by decreasing sympathetic nervous system activity. This review examines the evidence supporting estrogen's ability to modulate sympathetic nervous system tone and thereby decrease arterial pressure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Baroreflex / physiology
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause / physiology
  • Premenopause / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / drug effects*


  • Estrogens