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Study sends mixed message about Hormone treatment for menopause

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It’s a natural consequence of aging. A change every woman will experience at middle age or even sooner.

But the medical messages about menopause can be confusing.

Do you replace your hormones or not? The latest study says, it depends.

That study is printed in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It’s an update of the 2005 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)–which is an influential panel of U.S. health advisors.

53-year-old Lisa takes a walk at Washington Park. But going through menopause is anything but a walk in the park.

“You sweat a lot, especially at night. You’re just slipping and sliding. You’re soaking wet. You sweat in places you didn’t even know you could sweat, even your ankles,” chuckles Lisa, who didn’t want to give her last name.

And she says she’d use hormone replacement therapy to help, if she could, despite the health risks.

“I only tried it for a month and I got side effects so I wasn’t allowed to try it anymore,” she says.

An update of guidelines from a 2005 recommendation reiterates post-menopausal women should not replace their loss of hormones, if they’re just trying to prevent chronic conditions, like osteoporosis.

This study says the benefits of combined estrogen and progestin or estrogen alone, do not outweigh the harm.

It says while those hormones help decrease the risk of bone fractures, it also increases the likelihood for stroke, dementia, gallbladder disease, deep vein blood clots and, in some cases, heart disease.

“I was on replacement therapy for a while, 6 to 7 years. Then, the doctor suggested it was not something I continue with. It did have some inherent dangers,” says Sandra Jackson of Denver.

Her doctor had been using HRT to prevent heart disease, which ran in her family.

“But the updated study does make clear, it does not apply to women using HRT to manage their menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes or vaginal dryness.

It also doesn’t apply to women, younger than 50, who have had a hysterectomy.

“Sleepless and sweat,” laughs Lisa about what the last six years of her life have been since she entered menopause.

A recent British study suggests women treated with HRT long term, who were early into menopause, had significantly lower risk for heart attack or death, without an increase in cancer or stroke.

But the study stresses, it may need more time to make more definite conclusions.