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Can hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prevent heart disease in women?

Previously, it had been believed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) -- which replaces estrogen that is no longer produced by the body after menopause -- provided heart health benefits. At the present time, there is no evidence that combination postmenopausal hormone therapy prevents heart disease and it may increase a woman's risk under certain circumstances. The American Heart Association has presented formal guidelines recommending that physicians should not prescribe HRT to prevent heart disease. There are other medications that have been shown to prevent heart disease (such as aspirin, cholesterol lowering drugs, and others) and you should discuss with your doctor whether any of these medications would be of benefit to you.

At menopause, women experience both an increase in heart disease risk and a drop in levels of the hormone estrogen. In the recent past, medical researchers thought the drop in estrogen was a direct cause of increased heart disease risk - and that replacing this lost estrogen in the body through hormone replacement therapy would reverse the increase in heart disease. Much is still unknown, but thanks to a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative, medical professionals now know that hormone replacement has no effect on heart health and that combination therapies of estrogen and progesterone actually increase the risk of heart attacks.

 

Hormone replacement therapy successfully combats some of the symptoms of menopause. However, depending on the hormones used, it can also raise the risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots or breast cancer. Some hormone therapies may reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer. The bottom line is that hormone replacement therapy does not protect the heart and can actually increase the risk. The decision about whether to use hormone replacement therapy is one that you should make with your doctor by weighing benefits, drawbacks and your risk factors such as family history, overall health and age.

 

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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.