(Health Secrets) Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is most commonly prescribed to treat the hot flashes, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, night sweats, insomnia, weight gain, and irritability associated with menopause. But HRT should really be known as hormone substitution drug therapy, because these drugs are a poor second to the hormones the body naturally makes and the bioidentical hormones that exactly replicate them. The most common hormone substitution drugs are conjugated horse estrogens and progestins, synthetic drugs that mimic some of the actions of real hormones but have a host of terrible side effects. If you or a loved one is considering HRT, learn about its possible health risks.
- Breast Cancer
BreastCancer.org states that women using the combination of an estrogen substitution drug and a progestin for HRT, even for a short period of time, have a marked (75%) increase in their breast cancer risk. For women using only an estrogen substitution drug, the risk seems to increase only after 10 or more years of use.
- Uterine Cancer
The use of unopposed estrogen substitution drug therapy has been shown to increase endometrial hyperplasia (a thickening of the uterus) at a rate of 10% per year. This could increase your risk of developing uterine cancer. Unopposed estrogen substitution drug therapy has also been linked to precancerous histology in some women. Adding a progestin to an estrogen substitution drug increases these risks.
- Heart Disease
A large placebo-controlled study revealed that women on active hormone drug replacement therapy had a 50% increase in heart disease within their first year of treatment.
The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published the results of a large, randomized, placebo-controlled trial called the Women’s Health Initiative. It revealed an increase in both the risk of stroke and venous thromboembolism (VTE), a disease that includes both deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), with the use of hormone substitution drugs.
DVT is caused by a blood clot that forms in a vein deep within your body. PE is caused by blood clots forming in your pulmonary arteries. These blockages may multiply and travel throughout the body, causing a life-threatening episode that can only be treated with immediate emergency medical intervention.
If you already have a tendency toward hypertension, you may wish to avoid hormone substitution drug replacement therapy, as it has been associated with a further rise in blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of aortic dissection, hardening of the arteries, and congestive heart failure.
If you and your doctor are talking about hormone substitution drug therapy, be sure you are a good candidate. For example, it is recommended for women in surgical menopause but not for women who have had breast cancer. The health risks of HRT also greatly increase in women over the age of 50. Better yet, find a doctor who can prescribe bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones exactly replicate the hormones made in the body and are protective of health.
In our next article, we will explore some of the natural alternatives to hormone substitution drug therapy.
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