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Hormone Replacement Therapy

Estrogen levels plummet during menopause, leading many women to experience hot flashes, bone loss, and other uncomfortable changes in body chemistry. So, what happens if you simply add that estrogen back into the equation?

Replacing lost estrogen, a practice known as hormone replacement therapy, can treat many of the symptoms of menopause and support long-term health. But, for some women, this relief comes with elevated risks.

Manage Menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy

Estrogen is a powerful female hormone that the body stops making during menopause. Many of the symptoms associated with menopause – hot flashes, vaginal dryness, brittle bones – can be attributed to this sudden and significant drop in natural estrogen production.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) essentially counteracts this change by reintroducing estrogen and other vital hormones to the body. By raising estrogen levels, HRT alleviates some of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause and reestablishes hormonal balance.

Pros and Cons of HRT

When used correctly, hormone replacement therapy can provide great benefits and life-changing relief. Here are some of the ways hormone replacement therapy can be used to improve health and wellbeing.

  • HRT can provide relief for menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
  • HRT can prevent bone loss and reduce fracture in postmenopausal women.
  • HRT can decrease the risk of certain health conditions, including osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, dementia and mood changes for women with a hysterectomy or early menopause.

With that said, hormone replacement therapy has also been shown to come with certain health risks. This is a significant drawback to HRT to be aware of.

  • HRT can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer in some populations.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Options

There are many different ways to receive hormone replacement therapy depending on a person’s specific needs. Systemic estrogen has a higher dose of estrogen that gets absorbed into the body and is ideal for treating the majority of symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes. Systemic estrogen is available in pill, skin patch, ring, gel, cream and spray form.

For women who are primarily concerned with treating vaginal dryness, a low-dose HRT option may be a better choice. Available in cream, tablet or ring form, low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen can localize the treatment area and minimize the amount of estrogen absorbed into the bloodstream.

Is It Right for Me?

While HRT was once considered a significant breakthrough in women’s health, the risks associated with HRT are now much more widely acknowledged and understood. Most HRT risks – including the possibility of stroke, heart disease, blood clots and breast cancer – vary greatly depending on age and family health history.

There are a lot of variables at play when determining your risk level. In general, women who start HRT after age 60 – or more than 10 years after menopause – are at greater risk. Women with a personal or family history of cancer, heart disease, stroke, blood clots, liver disease or osteoporosis may also experience elevated risk levels when taking hormone replacement therapy.

Discussing these factors with your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy. Though it comes with risks, HRT can dramatically improve a woman’s quality of life during and after menopause, making it a great tool to be aware of as you age.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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