Women entering menopause have a wide array of choices for treatment today than in the past. Nowadays, it’s common to hear the standard prescription is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Deciding whether or not to take HRT remains a hot topic of debate among experts – not only for its benefits, but also for its additional risks – which leaves many women asking the same question: where do I fit in?
Read on to find out about HRT.
What Is Hormone Therapy?
Using a combination of estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone), hormone therapy “puts back” hormones the ovaries have stopped producing. Because it is not available over the counter, HRT must be prescribed by a doctor.
Can HRT Help Me?
With so many benefits but added risks as well, deciding whether or not to use HRT is a big step. It is recommended to talk with your doctor to find out if HRT is right for you. However, for women at higher risk of the following, HRT may or may not be an option:
- Heart disease. Doctors may recommend long-term HRT for women at risk of heart disease (due to factors like smoking, physical inactivity, or family history). For the prevention of heart attacks, it is not clear whether HRT really helps or not. In the past, estrogen was believed to have an effect on curbing attacks because premenopausal women have lower levels of heart disease than men; HRT has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and in some studies, women taking HRT had fewer heart attacks.
- Osteoporosis. A condition characterized by weak and fragile bones, osteoporosis puts many older women at high risk for hip fracture and bone loss. Women are more vulnerable after menopause because estrogen helps control the balance between bone formation and breakdown. As estrogen levels decline, bone breakdown increases leading to higher levels of bone loss. Generally based on a bone density test, there is evidence that HRT can help to maintain bone density, decreasing the risk of fracture.
- Breast cancer. It is difficult to quantify the risks of HRT when speaking about breast cancer. Women with pregnancies later in life, fewer children, or who consume more alcohol generally have higher risks of breast cancer. However, some experts argue the added risk of developing breast cancer from HRT depends on weight and treatment time.
To find out where you fit when deciding to take HRT, always talk to your doctor about whether hormone therapy is right for you. Click here to read more information about hormone therapy and menopause.
• “Hormone Therapy.” Medline Plus.www.nlm.nih.gov
• “Hormone Replacement Therapy.” Menopause Myths & Medicine.www.abc.net
• “Hormone Replacement Therapy : Exploring the Options for Women.” Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council.www.nhmrc.gov