Estrogen is a powerful hormone with pleiotropic effects. Estrogens have potent antioxidant effects and are able to reduce inflammation, induce vasorelaxation and alter gene expression in both the vasculature and the heart. Estrogen treatment of cultured cardiac myocytes and endothelial cells rapidly activates NFkappaB, induces heat-shock protein (HSP)-72, a potent intracellular protective protein, and protects cells from simulated ischemia. In in vivo models, estrogens protect against ischemia and trauma/hemorrhage. Estrogens may decrease the expression of soluble epoxide hydrolase, which has deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system through metabolism of epoxyeicosatrienoic acids. Natural (endogenous) estrogens in premenopausal women appear to protect against cardiovascular disease and yet controlled clinical trials have not indicated a benefit from estrogen replacement postmenopause. Much remains to be understood in regards to the many properties of this powerful hormone and how changes in this hormone interact with aging-associated changes. The unexpected negative results of trials of estrogen replacement postmenopause probably arise from our lack of understanding of the many effects of this hormone.