There lies little scientific evidence about whether cardiovascular system of a person would be harmed or benefited after a Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT). However some studies have linked HRT with heart disease, stroke,and cancer. The impact of HRT on Cardiovascular disease is of special importance as CVD is one of the leading causes of death in women.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment where women are given certain female hormones like estrogen with or without progestin (synthetic form of progesterone), and sometimes testosterone. The therapy is usually used to treat symptoms of menopause in aged women. Estrogen-only therapy is given to some women who have their uterus removed. The therapy comes as pill or tablets, injection, nasal patch, vaginal cream, skin cream, or skin patches (applied to the thigh or belly area).
Effect of HRT on CVD
Almost a decade after the commencement of menopause, women stand a higher chance of developing heart disease. This is basically due to the fact that, during these times the hormone levels in a woman drop steadily and this has an adverse effect on the cardiovascular system. Preliminary observational researches have shown that HRT has some benefits in women like increased elasticity of blood vessels, improved menopause symptoms, lowered risk of Osteoporosis (a disease of bone that leads to an increased risk of fracture), and improvement in glucose levels. Some postmenopausal women who receive hormone replacement therapy with estrogen plus progestin, experience an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. It has been suggested that this increased risk might be limited to women who start hormone replacement therapy later in menopause. The risk factor has been shown to be high during the first years of hormone replacement therapy. It appears that the reason why some of these women had lower risks of heart disease was probably due to their lifestyles, instead of pure medical benefits of HRT.
Health risks associated with HRT
More recent studies have now reasoned out health risks associated with HRT. Studies like Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study (HERS) and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) have placed the risk factors involved in the treatment over their benefits. Various health risks of HRT include: increased risk of breast cancer with prolonged use of hormones, increased risk of endometrial cancer (this is not a problem for women who have their uterus removed), high risk of gall bladder and cardiovascular disease, blood clots, and stroke.Formation of blood clots in arteries is of major concern. HRT increases the risk of venous thrombosis (vein clotting) in post-menopausal women. Other accompanying problems include phlebitis and pulmonary embolus (blood clots moving to the lungs).
As with most of the available treatments, side effects are conceivable with HRT. The side effects vary from person to person. Some women experience fluid retention, vaginal bleeding, mood swings, nausea, breast soreness, and headaches. Irregular bleeding is often eliminated by changing the dosage.
The findings of all these studies hence support current recommendations for women to take HRT, if needed, to relieve the symptoms of menopause, but to take it at the lowest dose and for the shortest amount of time possible. HRT should not be initiated or continued for primary prevention of Coronary Heart Disease. A healthy lifestyle is a must for women who have undergone HRT. The cardiac muscles should be maintained healthy by regular aerobic exercises. Eating healthy foods and following a diet low in saturated, trans- fats and high in fibers can add to the benefits. It is necessary to have regular checkups with your doctor when undergoing HRT, and medical conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are to be closely monitored, as they contribute to the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The risks of cardiovascular disease must be weighed against the benefits of postmenopausal symptom relief.