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When hormone replacement therapy, also known as HRT, first hit the scene many doctors and women alike thought that they have found a cure-all for the unpleasant symptoms that are associated with menopause. However, after further research, alarm bells began to sound. The results of some research studies into the effectiveness and safety of HRT seemed to suggest that HRT actually increased the risk of some of the conditions it was meant to keep at bay, including heart disease. The news media picked up on this story and ran with it, sending many nervous women to their doctors to find out if their health was at risk thanks to their HRT. However, just how great is the risk associated with HRT, especially as it related to heart disease? Are women back to the drawing board when it comes to managing all of those menopausal symptoms, or is HRT not as scary as it has been made out to be?
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Has HRT been demonstrated to increase the risk of heart attack and coronary artery disease? Yes, it has. Has HRT been demonstrated to reduce the risk of heart attack and coronary artery disease in menopausal women? Yes, it has. Are you confused? You’re not alone – many women struggle with the fact that HRT has been shown to be helpful AND harmful at the same time. The simple fact of the matter is that HRT has helped some women, and it has harmed some women. One major explanation for this fact may come down to age. The study that has shown that HRT increases the risk of heart problems was conducted using older women – an average age of 63 – as the study group. These women had not had HRT treatment in before starting the study. Some of the results may have been down to aging – the women in this age group were at the stage that doctors would expect to being seeing heart trouble anyway, and further, their lack of HRT treatment in the past might have put them at an increased risk for developing heart disease. Drawing a link between HRT and all of the heart disease found in this study is difficult to do conclusively.
What doctors suspect is that HRT is a real benefit to women in the earlier years of menopause. When women in her 50s are given HRT, studies suggest that they receive a lot of heart health benefits from the therapy. Starting women on HRT at the onset of menopause and discontinuing it as they grow older (after symptoms stop) may be the best course of action for many women. In fact, most doctors believe that keeping women on HRT for as short a time as possible is the safest bet.
The bottom line about HRT is that there is no blanket, right or wrong answer for women. If you have risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing heart disease, like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or you are overweight, HRT might not be right for you. In other case, your doctor may decide that the benefits you will get from HRT outweigh the risks that come with it. Of course, it always possible and advisable to do everything you can to protect your heart health yourself, especially if you are on HRT. Eat a balanced diet, exercise on a regular basis, and of course, do not smoke. Your doctor can help you develop a routine that can help keep your heart health as well as managing your menopausal symptoms, whether you are using HRT or you are not.
on Jan 28 2011. Filed under Weight, Women.
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