Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has emerged as a viable solution for all middle-aged women when dealing with menopausal symptoms.
Despite many advantages that help women navigate the turbulence, much research has sparked public concern about whether HRT might make women more susceptible to cardiovascular disease after menopause. This has led to years and years of public discussion, debate, and confusion about whether hormone therapy may increase or decrease the risks of cardiovascular disease.
However, many new reanalyses have proven otherwise, confirming that women taking HRT have no higher risk of fatality from heart disease than women who don’t use the therapy. Learn more about menopause, the benefits of hormone therapy, and the reaffirmed findings regarding HRT’s efficacy in lowering cardiovascular disease risks.
No Increased Cardiovascular Disease Risks With Menopausal Hormone Therapy, Study Finds
The Roles of Estrogen in Women’s Health
The human body houses approximately 50 hormones responsible for specific bodily functions and biological processes. For example, the stress hormone cortisol is released in response to stressors, forcing the body to fight or flee in stressful situations. Insulin accounts for transferring glucose to hungry cells, tissues, and organs while keeping glucose levels in check to prevent diabetes.
You have probably heard of estrogen in women alone, the hormone exclusive to each woman’s lifetime. Despite being secreted in limited amounts by the ovaries, the hormone is vital for every aspect possible of wellness and well-being in women, spanning from adolescence to menopausal years.
More than just a major player in women’s fertility and reproductive system, estrogen also takes on a handful of essential functions and organs throughout the body, such as the gastrointestinal system, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, breasts, blood vessels, skin, brain, heart, liver, etc. The pivotal hormone of women is involved in the following:
- Adjusting the body temperature
- Improving stamina and sexual functions
- Enhancing cognitive functions
- Protecting the heart from bad cholesterol
- Regulating the production of cholesterol in the liver
- Promoting bone growth
- Increasing bone mineral density
- Boosting the mood
Menopause and Heart Health: What Is the Connection?
As we age, the body undergoes numerous momentous changes that can throw off chemical balance; too much or too little of these substances can affect how the body functions.
The woman’s hormone estrogen is not immune to this inevitable process. In women alone, estrogen levels start to drop around their mid-40s, known as the menopause stage. In addition to 12 consecutive months without a period, women can experience several changes and disruptions, including vaginal dryness, low sexual drive, urinary issues, headaches, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and so on.
Since estrogen is protective of women, a lack of estrogen during menopause can be tough on their overall wellness and well-being. Among these adverse effects is the malfunction of the heart. Estrogen plays a vital role in cardiovascular health, particularly in regulating blood pressure, and ensures sufficient blood circulation throughout the body. It does so by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the build-up of cholesterol, fats, and other non-water-soluble substances inside the artery walls. It means that menopausal women are at increased risk of developing various conditions associated with their heart, such as heart attacks, stroke, cardiomyopathy, coronary heart disease (CAD), heart failure, etc.
HRT and Cardiovascular Risk: Does Hormone Therapy Lower Risks of Cardiovascular Disease?
Heart disease is barely a danger to younger women, thanks to estrogen. Still, the table immediately turns as soon as they hit menopause. Without adequate estrogen, women are more vulnerable to heart disease than men, with statistics shockingly unveiling that cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for 35% of women’s deaths around the world each year.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), available in patches, tablets, creams, gel, or spray, is sometimes prescribed to help women overcome rough patches during menopause. This indicates that hormone therapy is a powerful ally in women’s health maintenance despite the shutdown of their ovaries.
It helps relieve uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, improve bone health, boost moods, and increase sexual stamina, among other health benefits. A good number of studies have also shown that women taking hormone therapy are at a lower risk of morbidity and mortality. They can live longer and healthier when estrogen keeps certain health risks at bay.
While estrogen treatment has high effectiveness in alleviating menopausal symptoms, a growing number of women avoid taking it in concern of increased risk of cardiovascular complications such as blood clots. Recently, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not HRT might improve women’s heart health. Several reanalyses have turned towards estrogen administration for women in menopause, reaffirming that the hormone replacement might be as beneficial for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease as expected.
Despite widespread concern about the safety of HRT, researchers have reconfirmed that hormone replacement therapy does not increase risks of cardiovascular disease, according to a nationwide-based study conducted on more than 56,000 middle-aged women in South Korea. Following the analysis, they found no connection between the use of hormone therapy and cardiovascular disease in the group of 8,013 HRT users.
Many scientists consider that the cardioprotective effects of HRT are all about timing, suggesting that menopausal women are unlikely to develop heart issues as long as they take HRT during the first year of menopause. Taking HRT as early as possible may be an effective measure to minimize the risk of heart disease. The therapy doesn’t ensure to resolve existing cardiovascular issues in women, given that heart disease can fly under the radar for many years before diagnosis.
Can women with a history of heart disease go on hormone therapy? Consulting with a cardiologist for a comprehensive examination is advisable since taking HRT may involve many health factors.
How to Prevent Heart Disease After Menopause?
It is crucial for women to take good care of their health, no matter what life phase they are going through. Menopause may be tricky, but hormone replacement therapy is not the only way to prevent heart disease after menopause. Other ways you can use to stay healthy and thriving after entering menopause are:
Get regular screenings: The American Heart Association recommends checking your cholesterol every five years. Getting your blood pressure checked should be done every two years, and it is best to have blood glucose levels screened every three years.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle: A healthy lifestyle is good for cardiovascular health. It means staying active, eating nutrient-rich and low-cholesterol diets and meal plans, and limiting the consumption of alcohol and sodium. Quitting smoking for good is another must-do to maintain your heart health.
Reduce stress: Cultivating positive thoughts and mindsets through meditation and mindfulness practice is another way to prevent heart problems, as excessive stress can interfere with cardiovascular activities.
Keep track of blood pressure and cholesterol levels: High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the silent killer of several heart diseases, such as stroke, heart failure, and heart attack. That’s why it’s essential to monitor your blood pressure and the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
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