What are the benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
Women today can expect to live 30 or 40 years after menopause. The lower amount of estrogen during these decades can affect their bodies in two general ways: It can cause physical changes and uncomfortable symptoms that are associated with menopause. However, not every woman experiences bothersome symptoms of menopause. It puts women at greater risk for certain dangerous diseases, like osteoporosis, which can lead to fractures. The benefits of hormone replacement therapy include controlling menopause symptoms, preventing heart disease, preventing osteoporosis, preventing some hard-to-detect female cancers.
Preventing heart disease: Before menopause, a woman has a much lesser risk for heart disease than a man does. But after menopause, a woman's risk begins to increase toward that of a man's. Changes in estrogen levels after menopause are accompanied by changes in the fat (lipid) levels in the blood, especially the different types of cholesterol. These changes are considered to be major factors in the increased incidence of heart attacks and atherosclerosis, also called "hardening of the arteries." Women may even experience a protective effect from high blood pressure and blood clots if they are on low doses of estrogen (0.625 mg.) If you have several of the following risk factors for heart disease, i.e. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, diabetes and/or an enlarged heart, you may be in a group of women who would live at least three years longer by taking estrogen.
Eliminaing hot flashes: The FDA has approved estrogen for the treatment of hot flashes, vaginal dryness and osteoporosis. Hot flashes are that sudden wave of heat that starts in your chest and rushes up your neck and face. They are almost always cured by estrogen replacement. Hot flashes occurring at night are known as night sweats and can cause sleeplessness with resulting irritability the next day. Night sweats are almost always cured by estrogen replacement therapy. In fact these symptoms are often used as a barometer to see if the dose of estrogen is correct.
Preventing Osteoporosis: Hormone replacement therapy can help protect women against osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become more porous, which gradually makes them weaker and more brittle. Major studies have reported that women who take estrogen after menopause experience fewer bone fractures than women who do not. The bones of both men and women are at their strongest and most dense around age 30 or 40. After this, there is a gradual thinning of bones. Bones affected by osteoporosis break more easily, particularly the spine, hip, and forearm. Unfortunately, these are the bones that allow people to remain active.
Reverse vaginal and urinary tract changes: Changes in the vagina and bladder are seen within ten years and can lead to burning, itching, painful intercourse and frequent vaginal and bladder infections as well as urinary incontinence. Both the vagina and the bladder are very sensitive to HRT, and these symptoms are inevitably relieved by oral estrogen (by mouth) or by creams containing estrogen. HRT thickens the vaginal and bladder walls and stimulates the vaginal glands to produce the lubrication necessary to make sexual intercourse enjoyable.
Eliminating mood swings: There is now sufficient data to conclude that estrogen which enhances mood complaints such as irritability, crying spells and feelings of sadness that typically appear during menopause usually respond to HRT. Estrogen may even boost the effectiveness of some antidepressant medications. Some women who do not respond to antidepressant medication may respond to estrogen. The effect of HRT on mood may be secondary to its ability to relieve irritability and hot flashes thereby enhancing mood in an indirect way. Progesterone therapy, which is added to estrogen to protect against endometrial cancer can exacerbate or cause depressive symptoms. These complexities of mood need to be worked out with your healthcare provider.
Regaining sexual function: The integrity of the female reproductive tract is dependent on estrogen. Degenerative changes ensue when levels of estrogen decline after menopause. There is no question that estrogen can restore the degenerative changes the reproductive tract. First, the vagina becomes more pliable and well lubricated. This primes you for sexual activity. Second, androgen supplementation can increase sexual desire, motivation, fantasies, satisfaction and pleasure.
Protecting your bones: Calcium, vitamin D, and exercise are not enough. If you are postmenopausal and at risk for osteoporosis there are measures you can take to protect your bones. If you have a medical reasons not to take estrogen Fosemax® is FDA approved for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. The nasal spray Miacalin® is also approved to treat osteoporosis but not to prevent it. Estrogen remains the drug of choice for osteoporosis especially since it adds all the other benefits listed here. Progesterone added to estrogen has been found to increase its beneficial effects and when you add testosterone the effects may be increased even further. Most bone loss occurs within 5-7 years after menopause. Therefore, treatment should be started early. Transdermal and oral estrogen both work well. Other forms of estrogen such as creams or rings may not be effective in treating.
Saving your skin: Hormone replacement therapy will not reverse sun damage or repair broken blood vessels. Smoking damages your skin in ways that estrogen can't reverse. Estrogen plays a role in the way fat is distributed under your skin. Loss of this fat can make your skin look older than it should. Testosterone, which can be prescribed with estrogen helps regulate the skins oil gland activity. With age, oil production decreases and can lead to drying. Women who go through a late menopause tend to have younger looking skin, as do women on HRT. To have younger looking skin is not a reason to start HRT, however, it is a side effect most women don't mind.
Preventing some hard-to-detect female cancers: When women first started taking hormone replacement therapy, it consisted of estrogen alone. Studies later showed that estrogen alone increased a woman's risk of cancer of the uterus, called endometrial cancer. To prevent this, a second hormone (progesterone) is added to HRT if the woman still has her uterus. Some studies have indicated that women who take both of these hormone replacements may have a lower incidence of endometrial cancer.
More information on menopause
What is menopause? - Menopause is a stage of the human female reproductive cycle that occurs as the ovaries stop producing estrogen, causing the reproductive system to gradually shut down.
When does menopause occur? - Most premenopausal women experience changes in their menstrual cycle. Perimenopause is the phase before menopause actually takes place, when ovarian hormone production is declining and fluctuating, causing a host of symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of menopause? - The symptoms of menopause can be divided into early and late onset symptoms. Early symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, and mood changes. Late symptoms include vaginal dryness and irritation, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
What causes menopause? - Menopause occurs when the ovaries are totally depleted of eggs and no amount of stimulation from the regulating hormones can force them to work.
What is premature menopause? - Premature menopause is menopause that happens before the age of 40 - whether it is natural or induced.
What is perimenopause? - Perimenopause is the stage of a woman's life before menopause. The perimenopause is a normal period of transition between the childbearing years and menopause.
What is postmenopause? - Postmenopause is the time when most of the transitional stress of menopause has passed. Since postmenopausal women produce less estrogen, there are some symptoms that they might experience.
What are the treatment options for menopause? - Treatments for menopause can be divided based on those symptoms that are present in a given woman at a specific time. The standard of treatment for menopausal symptoms is replacement of one or both of the major female hormones.
What is hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? - Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment for women who have reached or passed menopause, which often is referred to as "the change of life."
What are the benefits of hormone replacement therapy? - The benefits of hormone replacement therapy include controlling menopause symptoms, preventing heart disease, preventing osteoporosis, preventing some hard-to-detect female cancers.
What are the risk factors for hormone replacement therapy? - Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) risks and possible side effects include increased risk of cancers, blood clots, gallbladder disease, and heart attack or stroke.
What hormones are used in hormone replacement therapy? - The menopause is associated with a relative lack of oestrogens and progestogens. Replacement therapy always requires oestrogens, which are given continuously.
How is hormone replacement therapy taken? - There are many ways of taking HRT, including a daily tablet, skin patches, a small pellet or implant under the skin, a gel applied daily to the skin, or a nasal spray.
What is natural hormone replacement therapy? - Natural hormone replacement therapy (NHRT) is a combination of human estrogens and natural human progesterone.
What are herbal remedies for menopause? - Some women take herbal, natural, or plant-based products to help their symptoms. Wort and chasteberry may help some women with depressed mood.
What is estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)? - Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) is therapy to replace estrogen no longer made by a woman's body because she is post-menopausal or her ovaries have been damaged or removed.
What menopause diet is suggested? - Eating right can definitely ease the various discomforts of menopause including hot flashes, bloating and mood swings.