Can everyone take Hormone Replacement Therapy? The benefits and risks of HRT…

Can everyone take Hormone Replacement Therapy? The benefits and risks of HRT…

Everything in life has an element of uncertainty – we can categorically say that nothing is 100% risk free. As appealing as that can be for the thrill seekers, when it comes to your health, you want to reduce this risk factor to the bare minimum – especially in the later years.

Cue Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT. Experts claimed it was a foolproof no-risk way of dealing with the many frustrating symptoms of the menopause, and if you’re one of the million women in the UK opting for some form of HRT, then you most likely agree. It helps subdued hot flushes, balance out your fiery temperament and kept the night sweats at bay making the annoying but necessary condition as bearable as it can be.

That was until a number of studies in recent years revealed possible health risks. The cure relied upon by many of menopausal and post-menopausal women – as well as preventing heart disease and quite possibly dementia – became not so reliable. However, before the panic sets in, many of these reports do still state that HRT is the most effective form of treatment when it comes to dealing with this transitional point in your life. So what exactly are the risks of HRT and can you still take this form of medication?

The risks

A number of recent studies have suggested that HRT could increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, stroke, heart disease and blood clots, however this does depend on the individual. So what have these reports claimed and are you at risk?

One clinical trail detailed on Mayo Clinic proved that oestrogen combined with progesterone can make your breasts looks more dense meaning cancer will be more difficult to detect. There was also evidence that taking the Prempro pill for a prolonged period of time does increase the risk of developing breast cancer as well as heart disease, stroke and blood clots in a very small percentage of women.

Further evidence from the Cochrane group detailed that while the strengths of HRT grossly outweigh the weaknesses, there does need to be clearer information in the possible risks. The study that looked at around 40,000 women in the UK found that those taking HRT pills did have an increased risk of blood clots and stroke, however this was also down to outlining factors based on the individual’s lifestyle – the weight and age played a huge factor thus narrowing your risks even further still.

In terms of the risks, the amount of oestrogen, it is your age and weight can all have an impact on the dangers of HRT for you. Those that are severely overweight are advised to steer clear of HRT methods, and should certainly visit their GP if they’re looking for another method to relieve the symptoms of menopause.

The benefits

Whilst these conditions are of course very serious, it is important to remember that this affects an extremely small number of those who already have underlining health problems. HRT is still the most effective way to cope with menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, a low libido and mood swings. The benefits do greatly outweigh the risks for the vast majority of menopausal women seeking treatment to control their symptoms. HRT has been proven to:

  • Reduce the amount of hot flushes
  • Reduce the severity of hot flushes
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve mood (short-term)
  • Combat vaginal dryness
  • Aid in urinary problems//symptoms
  • Preserve bone density

Research has also shown that there is a lower risk of developing heart disease in younger women, although no such findings in older women or those who have taken the pills over a longer period of time have been found.

There are currently one million women in the UK on some form of hormone replacement therapy and whilst these studies have only referred to the tablet form of HRT, it is important to gage the risks to make an informed decision. The level of risk is very small, but do not hesitate to grab an appointment with your GP to determine whether HRT is compatible with you.