Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Can Menopause Decrease the Health of Your Heart?

Night Sweats and mood swings get most of the attention, but the health effects of menopause might have an effect on the heart.

Before menopause, hormones help boost women's cardiovascular system. Estrogen and progesterone are thought to keep arteries healthy, by helping to keep blood pressure under control.

Unfortunately, menopause marks the end of these heart-helpful hormones. Researchers are now asking whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will increase post-menopausal women's heart health.

According to Dr. Sandra Davidge, the Canada Research Chair in Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Alberta she feels that the question still bears further investigation. She does confirm that the timing of the hormone replacement is probably critical to any potential cardiovascular benefits."

The benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy were were definitely questioned in 2002 with the release of the Women's Health Initiative study. The headline making study reported that women on HRT actually had an increased rate of heart disease.

The results of this study forced researchers to take a closer look at the timing of HRT. The problem with the study was that many of the participants received HRT years, or even decades, after menopause.

In many of these cases, the estrogen was probably given too late, suggests Dr. Davis. "If you give estrogen to aged blood vessels it might not be protective and it might have detrimental effects. But if you give it to women at the onset of menopause it probably has benefits."

That's the conclusion of the research, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. They discovered that estrogen acts as a powerful antioxidant and also suppresses some of the proteins that cause inflammation, thereby having a positive effect on the arteries.

This raises the possibility that HRT might be effective in extending cardiovascular health if it's given at the onset of menopause, before the blood vessels have deteriorated.

Or course this study was initially applied to aged female rats. The next step is to apply the theory to humans to see if it is correct.

For now, the best thing for menopausal women's heart health is to improve overall cardiovascular health through excercise and a healthy diet. By strengthening your heart you will be more likely to withstand any potential damaging effects of reduced hormone levels.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anita,

I read this study as well. There have been a number of articles recently that seem to be attempting to redeem HRT. It's safe as long as started early, maybe a lower dose, etc. I wish that more effort were put into finding non-HRT treatment. For example, instead of starting HRT during early perimenopause, maybe they could study women who followed a hormone-balancing diet that included soy, sources of omega-3fatty acids, and other phytoestrogens? Just a thought! Here's an article about the "natural approach" to heart disease prevention. It's worth a read!

Neeters said...

Hi Jacqueline,
Good article...thanks. I tend to like the natural approach myself, due to my history with cancer. Having said that based on my own research it seems that short term use of HRT can be beneficial for some women.