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Does combination hormone replacement therapy prevent heart disease?

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You wake up one morning and you’re fine. The next morning, a very unwelcome guest has strong-armed its way into your life bringing night sweats, mood swings, a belly the likes of which you haven’t seen since you were pregnant, along with a vague feeling of disorientation as you wonder what just hit you.

Welcome or not, menopause is a fact of life and it’s going to happen to all women eventually. In addition to the pesky menopausal side effects that we can see and feel, it also leaves us an unwelcome gift that we can’t see, an increased risk of heart disease.

As if the gifts of menopause weren’t enough, being postmenopausal is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.

Menopause is one stage in life for which there is no one-stop-shopping of treatment. Each woman responds differently to the changes in her body.

Some experience rather mild symptoms which can be controlled by herbal supplements, dietary or lifestyle changes. Other women get hit by symptoms so severe that it rivals a F5 tornado and leaves them wondering it they’ll ever be able to dig themselves out from the wreckage. For those women, herbal supplements and lifestyle changes may not be enough to address what is happening.

Regardless of the severity of the symptoms, we all have one thing in common. Menopause increases our risk of heart disease. As if to add insult to injury, research indicates that some of the therapies which are commonly used to treat menopause symptoms may also significantly increase your risk of heart disease above and beyond the risk brought by menopause itself.

It’s important for women who are now at that ‘certain age’ to understand not only how menopause impacts their heart health, but how some of the common treatments for menopause may impact their heart health as well.

The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) is an ongoing 15-year research program that focuses on improving the quality of life in postmenopausal women. Specifically, the WHI focuses on heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. These are the three most common causes of either death or disability for postmenopausal women.

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Estrogen works to regulate a woman's monthly menstrual cycle and secondary sexual characteristics such as breast development and function, and also rises at different times in the menstrual cycle to prepare the body for fertilization and reproduction. Progesterone also rises in a cyclical fashion to prepare the uterus for possible pregnancy and to prepare the breasts for lactation milk production. As a woman reaches menopause, typically around 50 years old, her body produces less and less estrogen and progesterone. It is estimated that 40 million women will reach menopause in the next 20 years.
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May 25, 2010 - 9:49pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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