Recently (Nov. 2014) a study called the ELITE study by Dr. Howard Hodis and his associates at USC was presented at The American Heart Association. This study helps to confirm some very good news for women. If you start taking certain forms of hormone therapy within 6 years of menopause you can very significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and thus your risk of heart attacks. Each year more than 400,000 women die of a heart attack. It is the leading cause of death in women.
Who should sit up and take notice? All women who are approaching natural menopause, all women who are considering a hysterectomy AND all women who had their last period or had a hysterectomy within the last 6 years. If you wait a decade or more to replace the hormones that your ovaries were making you lose the cardiovascular benefit. If you are not already taking hormone-therapy you should talk with your doctor and consider starting.
Some of the good news in the Nov. report is not brand new. We have known for quite a while that women achieve important health benefits if they start on estrogen-only therapy in the years following hysterectomy. Numerous other studies confirm these results. Even the famous American study called WHI (Women’s Health Initiative) reported that, at follow-up, the women in their estrogen-only group had a decreased risk of heart-disease and, by-the-way, a decreased risk of breast cancer.
If ovaries are removed at the time of hysterectomy, it is usually recommended to start estrogen replacement immediately. If the ovaries are retained, women should have continuing hormone evaluations by their gynecologists as, sooner or later, they too will become estrogen deficient. Only women without a uterus can safely take estrogen without taking a second hormone (progesterone or a progestin) to protect the uterus from cancer.
What IS brand new from the ELITE study is that women who still have a uterus, and thus must take a combined two-hormone regimen, can reap the same cardiovascular benefit as those without a uterus taking estrogen-only.Read more in Advancing Health After Hysterectomy