An ETSU biology professor is conducting research concerning the affects of estrogen loss on cardiovascular disease with a grant from the American Heart Association.

Dr. Cerrone Foster became interested in the subject after completing her doctorate and realizing the impact that the research would have on women in the area and nationally.

“It was about the clinical significance for me,” Foster said. “When I started thinking about it, cardiovascular disease was one of those hot topic areas where there was not lot of work done. There was this major problem, but the highlight was the discrepancies.” 

According to a study on the AHA website, heart disease is the leading killer of women. 

“The awareness about cardiovascular disease became more important in these last 20 years,” she said. “What [research] is finding is that women don’t pay as close attention to the cardiovascular factors. In the roles that we see women in, the last thing they do is think about themselves.”

Two years ago, Foster did a presentation on this topic for a group of women at a local church. The most important information she shared with them was that hormone replacement therapy is not the best treatment option, and she stressed the importance of heart health awareness.

“Women take HRT because losing your estrogen affects so many different parts of your body, not just your heart,” she said. “It seemed like a plausible idea, but studies started to see adverse effects.”

The most common side effects of HRT are strokes, blood clots and heart attacks. 

One of the main focuses of Foster’s research is to find a safer alternative for those who suffer with the disease. She is studying a protein called caveolin, which could mimic HRT and cure patients with less side effects, but no clear answers have been found.

“Cardiovascular disease is preventable, but people suffer because they can’t access medical treatment and aren’t aware of the risks,” she said. “There are multiple people who are studying various aspects of estrogen deficiency. Everybody has their piece of the puzzle, and we hope it all comes together and teaches us how to develop options to help those who come into clinics with these issues.”