Women entering menopause have a wider array of choices for treatment today than in the past. Nowadays it's not uncommon to hear that 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 because of its benefits, but also its risks. This leaves many women asking the same question: where do I fit in? Continue reading to find out more about HRT.
What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Using a combination of estrogen and progestin, which is synthetic progesterone, HRT reintroduces the hormones that the ovaries have stopped producing back into the body. Because it is not available over the counter, HRT must be prescribed by a doctor.
Can HRT Help Me?
With so many benefits and risks, deciding whether or not to use HRT is a big decision. 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 health problems, HRT may be a good option:
A condition characterized by weak and fragile bones, osteoporosis puts many older women at high risk for hip fracture and loss of bone density. 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 loss of bone density. Generally based on a bone density test, there is evidence that HRT can help to maintain bone density, decreasing the risk of fracture.
Doctors may recommend long-term HRT for women at risk of heart disease due to 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, estrogens were believed to have a protective 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.
It is difficult to quantify the risks of HRT when speaking about breast cancer. Women who have had pregnancies later in life and fewer children, as well as women who consume large amounts of alcohol generally have higher risks of developing breast cancer. However, some experts argue that the added risk of developing breast cancer from HRT depends on weight and treatment time.
Finding out where you fit in when deciding to take HRT should always involve speaking to your doctor. Click here to read more information about hormone therapy and menopause.