A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no increased risk of heart attack for women in their 50s who were taking HRT.
Women in their 60s and 70s still experiencing the symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats, were at an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes even if they were not taking HRT.
The study concludes: “Women who initiated hormone therapy closer to menopause tended to have reduced coronary heart disease risk compared with the increase in coronary heart disease risk among women more distant from menopause.”
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the use of synthetic or natural female hormones to make up for the decline or lack of natural hormones produced in a woman’s body. HRT is sometimes referred to as estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), because the first medications that were used in the 1960s for female hormone replacement were estrogen compounds.
Heart disease is a major health concern of women in midlife. It is the leading cause of death in women over 60. The primary disorders of the circulatory system in postmenopausal women are stroke, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Current studies of women on HRT do not yield a completely clear picture. In particular, although estrogen given without progestins has been shown to offer some protection against heart disease, the effect of progestins in offsetting the benefits of estrogen complicates the research findings. It seems likely that estrogen levels are only part of the picture in evaluating a woman’s risk of heart disease.