Menopause hormone replacement therapy, also known as HRT involves the replacement of estrogen lost as a woman goes through menopause. This treatment was first presented to the public in 1964 when a book hit the markets written by Robert A Wilson, a New York gynecologist. This book, “Feminine Forever” talked about the benefits of menopause hormone replacement therapy and the ways in which it could stop women from going through the devastation associated with the change of life.
While HRT has shown to help with the symptoms that come with menopause to include hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, joint pain, insomnia, depression, vaginal dryness, and so on, this form of treatment has become quite controversial in that its long-term safety is still being questioned. First, we will go over the known benefits of HRT and then discuss the risk concerns. Some women will start on menopause hormone replacement therapy and do very well, staying on it for years whereas other women experience negative side effects within weeks, finding they cannot handle HRT. The interesting thing about HRT is that while it is so well known, just 15% of women are even eligible for this form of treatment.
Now, menopause hormone replacement therapy does offer many benefits. For example, women who are dealing with acute symptoms gain an improved quality of life. In addition to reducing or eliminating the common symptoms associated with menopause, HRT also provides long-term protection against things such as colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. Since women often feel overwhelmed with the psychological aspects of menopause, HRT has been a blessing in making the depression, mood swings, lack of concentration, and other similar symptoms much easier to handle. Then there is the physical side that can make life miserable. With hormone replacement therapy, these too are brought under better control in most cases. With this, the woman is able to function more effectively and live a happy life while going through this transitional phase.
In addition to helping with symptoms of menopause, HRT also works in preventing some diseases as mentioned. For colon cancer, new studies involving 2,300 women in post-menopause had significantly lower risk of developing colon cancer over women that had never been on HRT. In addition, the risk of cardiovascular disease is also reduced. With heart disease being a number one health risk for women, this is a powerful benefit. Women going through pre-menopause have a much higher level of HDL (good cholesterol) as well as LDL (bad cholesterol). When a woman completes menopause, those numbers increase even more. Because estrogen is very important when it comes to lipid metabolism, it only makes sense that HRT reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Then, osteoporosis robs a woman of bone mass, which estrogen replaces. HRT also enhances a woman’s sexuality and slows down the aging process.
As you can see, menopause hormone replacement therapy has many good points but as mentioned, it also brings with it controversy of risk. In studies, it has been shown that HRT can involve complaints, relative risk, and serious risk. For the complaints, we see things such as headache, nausea, depression, fluid retention, gallstones, breakthrough bleeding, and slight increase of breast cancer. The relative risks include hypertension, pancreatitis, endometriosis, benign breast and/or uterine disease, epilepsy, and migraine headaches. The more serious risks with using HRT include several types of cancer such as uterine, endometrial, and breast, along with heart attack, acute liver disease, pancreatic disease, vaginal bleeding, gallbladder disease, blood clots, and even stroke. Therefore, using HRT is a balancing act that requires involvement of a qualified doctor. If you are thinking about taking HRT, we highly recommend you talk it over with your doctor first to see if you are a good candidate for this form of menopause treatment.
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