Although pre-menopausal women enjoy relative cardiovascular protection, hormone (oestrogen±progestin)-replacement therapy has not shown cardiovascular benefits in post-menopausal women, suggesting that the effects of oestrogens on the cardiovascular system are much more complex than previously expected. Endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts, the cellular components of blood vessels and the heart, play important roles in cardiovascular health and disease. During the development and progression of cardiovascular disease, changes occur both in the structure and function of these cells, resulting in a wide range of abnormalities, which affect growth, death and physiological function. These cells contain functional oestrogen receptors and are targets for oestrogen action. This review focuses on recent studies on the effects of oestrogen on cardiovascular cell function. Oestrogens, particularly 17β-oestradiol, exert multiple effects on cardiovascular cells, and these effects may contribute to the gender-associated protection against cardiovascular diseases.

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