Several years ago, the Women's Health Initiative concluded that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) doesn't protect our hearts and brains. Now the National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants to extend this research for another five years. They apparently haven't learned that HRT isn't safe and that there are much safer alternatives available.
The original study focused on Prempro, a combination of horse's estrogens and synthetic progesterone (progestin). The researchers found it actually increased the risk for heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and cancer. These were not the results that drug maker Wyeth was hoping for.
So Wyeth decided to fund a sub-study to see whether hormone therapy might help brain function. The problem was, it didn't protect against dementia or memory loss either. On the bright side, the researchers did find that plain old estrogen was safer than estrogen with progestin. The plain estrogen doesn't raise the risk for heart attacks or breast cancer – just stroke.
Now researchers at the NIH want to recruit around 500 women for a new three-year study. This time they intend to test estradiol, an estrogen found in our bodies, to see if it slows down atherosclerosis. It may, but if it increases any other diseases – something this study isn't set up to evaluate – it will just exchange one problem for another.
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If your doctor suggests that you participate in this study, "Just Say No."
In most cases, HRT is unnecessary. There are many safe and natural solutions to menopausal symptoms that a skilled doctor of integrative medicine can prescribe.
Hesperidin, one of the bioflavonoids in vitamin C, eliminates hot flashes. So do sage tea and black cohosh – two herbs you can find in any health food store. Phosphatidyl serine (PS) protects against memory loss. Regular exercise protects your heart. And the list goes on.
The next time you hear about the benefits of hormone therapy, look at who's behind the studies. Chances are, it's a large pharmaceutical company.
For more information on natural solutions to menopausal problems, pick up a copy of Get Off the Menopause Roller Coaster by Shari Lieberman, PhD (Avery 2000). And don't forget to read my many articles on this subject. They are available on my website at no cost to subscribers of Women's Health Letter.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Rubin, R., "Despite findings, estrogen use lingers," USA Today, February 24 2006.