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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Sarah Witkowski

Second Advisor

Jane Kent

Third Advisor

Mark Miller

Fourth Advisor

Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson

Subject Categories

Biology | Exercise Physiology | Exercise Science


Menopause is associated with adverse changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors. A reduction in estrogens is most commonly associated with changing cardiovascular disease risk; however, recent observations suggest that the increase in follicle stimulating hormone that accompanies menopause may also influence risk, potentially through its influence on lipid levels. The changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors may adversely affect endothelial cell function, a pre-clinical marker for cardiovascular disease. Whether cardiorespiratory fitness is protective of endothelial health in this population, thereby mitigating the changes in risk that accompany menopause, is unclear. This dissertation evaluated differences in endothelial health and endothelial responses to acute exercise in women in various menopausal stages and with different levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. Endothelial health was assessed using flow-mediated dilation and endothelial microparticles (EMPs). The project also evaluated whether follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels were related to lipid levels in a large cohort of postmenopausal women. We found that: 1) endothelial function declines with menopause, independent of cardiorespiratory fitness, 2) EMPs are reduced with acute, moderate intensity exercise in midlife women, despite differences in menopausal status and cardiorespiratory fitness, 3) High FSH is related to dyslipidemia in postmenopausal women. Together, these data suggest that menopause and cardiorespiratory fitness differentially impact factors related to cardiovascular disease risk.