Can Hormone Therapy Help Menopause? Is It Right for You?
In the past, hormone therapy was considered standard treatment for menopausal symptoms. It was also prescribed to provide protection against the increased susceptibility to heart disease, dementia, and other conditions during the peri-menopausal period.
However, recent research studies have indicated that older post-menopausal women were more prone to develop health conditions such as blood clots, stroke, breast cancer, and heart disease while on hormone therapy. As a result, hormone therapy is no longer routinely recommended as a preventative treatment for heart disease or memory problems in menopausal women.
Even though it is no longer prescribed as widely as in the past, for certain women, hormone therapy can still be quite beneficial, depending on their specific symptoms and risk factors.
Factors that should be considered when deciding to undergo hormone therapy include:
- Age: The risk of health hazards increases with age.
- Age of Menopause: In women who undergo menopause at an early age, the benefits of hormone therapy, such as protection from heart disease and osteoporosis, outweigh the risks.
- Duration of Hormone Therapy: The longer you are on hormone therapy, the greater the chance of developing health risks.
- Type of Hormone Therapy: Estrogen alone does not increase the risk of heart disease as much as a combination therapy of estrogen and progestin. The risk also varies depending on the type and dosage of estrogen.
- Individual Risk Factors: These include conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes and habits such as smoking.
- Family Risk Factors: Family history of heart disease or dementia.
- Severity of Menopausal Symptoms: If hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, and confusion associated with menopause are unbearable, then hormone replacement should be considered.
Hormone replacement therapy may be contraindicated if you have a history of stroke, breast or ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and blood clots in your legs or lungs.
The risks associated with hormone therapy can be reduced by:
- Selecting the Right Type of Hormone Therapy: This may be based on diagnostic blood tests that can determine which hormone or combinations of hormones are needed.
- Selecting the Right Delivery Method: If you suffer only from vaginal dryness, your doctor might recommend a vaginal cream instead of a pill, which may be more effective in relieving your symptoms.
- Minimizing the Dosage of Medication: Always choose the lowest effective dose and the shortest duration of treatment possible to alleviate your symptoms.
- Get Regular Follow-ups: While on hormone therapy, it is important to attend all health checkups and screenings as recommended by your doctor.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Make healthy choices in terms of diet and physical activity.