Lipoprotein subfractions and subclinical vascular health in middle aged women: does menopause status matter?

Menopause. 2022 Aug 1;29(8):911-919. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001998. Epub 2022 Jul 12.


Objective: During midlife, women experience changes in lipoprotein profiles and deterioration in vascular health measures. We analyzed the associations of groups of lipoprotein subfractions as determined by principal component analysis (PCA) with subclinical vascular health measures in midlife women and tested if these associations were modified by menopause status.

Methods: PCA was used to generate principal components (PCs) from 12 lipoprotein subfractions quantified among 545 midlife women. The associations of the identified PCs and concurrent vascular health measures were assessed using linear or logistic regressions among participants with carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT; n = 259), coronary artery calcium (n = 249), or aortic calcium (n = 248) scores.

Results: PCA generated four PCs representing groups of (1) small, medium, and large very low-density lipoproteins subclasses-very low-density lipoprotein PC; (2) very small, small, and medium low-density lipoprotein (LDL) subclasses-small-medium LDL-PC; (3) large and small high-density lipoproteins subclasses and midzone particles-high-density lipoprotein PC; and (4) large LDL and small intermediate-density lipoproteins-large LDL-PC. Small-medium LDL-PC was positively associated with cIMT, coronary artery calcium, and aortic calcium in unadjusted but not in adjusted models. Menopause status modified the positive association of the small-medium LDL-PC with cIMT (interaction P = 0.02) such that this association was stronger after versus before menopause ( P = 0.01).

Conclusions: Carotid intimal medial thickening is positively and independently associated with small- and medium-sized LDL particles after menopause. Monitoring levels of specific lipoprotein fractions may have value in identifying midlife women at risk for developing atherosclerotic vascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Calcium*
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged


  • Lipoproteins
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Calcium