A new study showing that short-term hormone replacement therapy does not harm women’s hearts should provide reassurance to women taking the medications for relief of menopausal symptoms, a top cardiologist tells Newsmax Health.
“The recommendations are always going back and forth, but this latest study offers comfort that using hormone replacement therapy for a short time right after menopause does not harm the heart,” said Chauncey Crandall, M.D., author of the Amazon No. 1 bestseller heart book The Simple Heart Cure.
The new research, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that short-term hormone therapy is safe for women who are healthy and free of heart disease.
Replacement hormones – primarily estrogen and progesterone – were once widely prescribed for postmenopausal women in the belief that they were cardiac protective. But the 2002 results of the landmark Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) showed the opposite – that the treatment actually raised heart attack and stroke risk.
As a result, fewer doctors now prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
But doctors may be doing a disservice to women who find their lives intolerable due to hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, said Dr. Crandall, director of preventive medicine at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic.
“Menopause drastically changes many women’s lives,” he said. “They suffer hot flashes, tachycardia (too-fast heartbeats), chest pain, increased anxiety, and sleeplessness. But when these women go on hormone therapy, there is a marked improvement.”
In his practice, Dr. Crandall said he considers replacement hormones on an individual basis, and weighs the benefits versus the risks. “I do believe that some women have an increased risk of blood clots, that can cause heart attack or stroke, but this appears to be in women who are overweight,” he said.
The new study was designed to look at women who were younger and not as far past menopause as those in the much-cited WHI study of 2002. Known as the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS), the privately funded research involved more than 700 women ages 42 to 58 who were no more than three years past menopause. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: low-dose oral hormone replacement therapy with estrogen and progesterone, a skin patch of estrogen and oral progesterone, or a placebo treatment with no treatment.
Over the course of the study period, the researchers used ultrasound tests to evaluate markers for heart disease. They also looked at blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
Researchers said their findings showed that replacement hormones neither help nor harm women’s hearts.
Hormone replacement therapy has been linked to increased breast cancer risk, but the new study looked only at the cardiac effects.
“I still believe that hormonal treatment should be used in the lowest dose for the shortest period of time, and I would not be inclined to recommend them for women who are not experiencing disruptive menopausal symptoms,” said Dr. Crandall.