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Can Hormone Therapy Reduce Heart Disease Risk?

Hormone TherapyPeople assume far too often that heart disease is solely a men’s issue which doesn’t affect the fairer sex. In fact, heart disease kills 12 times more women than breast cancer and is responsible for half of deaths in women over 50.

In their younger years, women have a natural defense against heart disease in the form of estrogen, which prevents the buildup of bad cholesterol in your arteries. When women reach perimenopause and menopause, however, their bodies stop producing estrogen, making it easier for fat and cholesterol levels to increase and wreak havoc.

While women going through natural menopause experience a relatively slow and steady decrease in estrogen, those who experience rapid menopause onset due to a hysterectomy or other surgery have a sudden drop in estrogen levels. This sharp decrease puts women even more at risk for heart disease down the road.

There are also many other lifestyle factors that can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease. These include: smoking, diabetes, excessive alcohol intake and excess body weight.

In recent years, there have been many studies looking at whether hormone therapy can possibly reduce the risk of heart disease in menopausal women. While initial studies suggested that hormone therapy was able to reduce risk across the board, more recent findings show that the therapy is most effective at maintaining heart health when hormone treatment begins soon after menopause symptoms begin.

However, hormone replacement therapy also comes along with its own set of risks and complications. Because of these potential drawbacks, women experiencing menopause symptoms are highly encouraged to meet with a cardiologist and review their personal medical history before beginning any long-term treatment.

If you are considering beginning hormone replacement therapy, here are five essential questions to ask your doctor:

  • Are there other cholesterol- or blood pressure-lowering drugs that could help me prevent heart disease?
  • Does my family history indicate I am at a higher risk for heart disease?
  • Will hormone therapy affect my risk of breast cancer?
  • What lifestyle changes will I need to make?
  • Do I need only estrogen supplements or a combination therapy?
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