What is hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
HRT is a treatment that is often prescribed to postmenopausal women to help relieve symptoms that accompany menopause: hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and sleeplessness. HRT has also been prescribed to prevent some long-term health problems that can accompany menopause, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis or bone loss.
Hormonal treatment may consist of estrogen alone, prescribed for women who have had a hysterectomy, or a combination of estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone), for women who still have a uterus and are going through menopause.
In its study of estrogen plus progestin, the Women’s Health Initiative study investigated a popular brand name HRT called Prempro. The hormones taken by the women in the study were 0.625 milligrams of conjugated equine estrogens (daily) and 2.5 milligrams of medroxyprogesterone acetate (daily).
Depending on when HRT is started, it may increase a woman’s risk of developing heart disease. Women who are over the age of 59 or at least 10 years postmenopausal are discouraged from starting HRT as this subset of patients appear to be at greater risk of developing cardiac disease.
If you are a member of this subset and taking HRT, what should you do?
This is a complex issue with individual risks and benefits. Women who are taking HRT should talk with their physician about continuing or ending their use of HRT in a timely but not emergent fashion to see how these results apply to them personally, and what is the best course of action for them.