As a woman, can estrogen protect me from heart disease?

Marina Johnson
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Heart disease is the number one killer of women leading to 400,000 deaths each year. More women than men died last year of heart attacks! Estrogen offers the most protection in the prevention of heart disease. In women younger than 60 or within 10 years of menopause, estrogen lowers heart disease by 32% and reduces mortality by 40%. 

The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) reported an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes with Prempro but average WHI participants were 20 years past menopause and many already had advanced heart disease. Fifty percent of WHI women were obese and current or past smokers, factors known to increase heart disease. The risks reported in WHI have been attributed to the use of oral synthetic estrogen that causes the liver to produce harmful products leading to heart disease and blood clots. Such risks of oral estrogen can be avoided by giving estrogen topically in the form of a patch, cream, gel or mist.

Read more in my guidebook for women, “Outliving Your Ovaries: An Endocrinologists Reviews and Risks and Rewards of Treating Menopause with Hormone Replacement.”

Leigh Vinocur, MD
Emergency Medicine
In the past, doctors believed that estrogen would protect women from heart disease. Historically, it’s misconception that could have initially created the bias we see today in medicine. But one or more risk factors can totally negate any beneficial protection estrogen gives to women with respect to heart disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.