Premenopausal and Postmenopausal Women Differ in their Cardiovascular and Neuroendocrine Responses to Behavioral Stressors

Patrice G. Saab, Karen A. Matthews, Catherine M. Stoney, Robert H. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

210 Scopus citations


Middle-aged (45-51 years) women performed four tasks while their heart rate, blood pressure, and plasma catecholamines were measured. The tasks were serial subtraction, mirror image tracing, speech, and postural tilt. The speech task was considered to be particularly relevant to women because of its emphasis on social skills. Fifteen premenopausal women reported menstruating regularly and were tested in the early follicular phase. Sixteen postmenopausal women reported not menstruating for at least 12 months and their hormonal status was verified by serum levels of follicle-stimulating hormone. Results showed that postmenopausal women exhibited greater increases from baseline in heart rate during all tasks, relative to premenopausal women, with a particularly pronounced increase during the speech task. Postmenopausal women exhibited greater increases from baseline in systolic blood pressure and epinephrine, relative to premenopausal women, during the speech task only. Explanations for the stressor-specific effect of menopausal status were discussed. The results suggest that reproductive hormones may interact with stressor characteristics to determine middle-aged women's physiological responses to stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-280
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1989



  • Behavioral stress
  • Catecholamines
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart rate
  • Menopause
  • Middle‐aged women
  • Reproductive hormones
  • Systolic blood pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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