Women’s Hormone Replacement Therapy Can Aid in Preventing Heart Disease
While it is generally well-documented that the female heart experiences changes during menopause, a new University of Guelph study is the first to demonstrate that unseen cardiac problems actually begin during perimenopause, the time before menopause.
This means that women begin experiencing subtle, sometimes unnoticed alterations to their hearts considerably sooner than previously supposed. Thus, this research indicates that the window of opportunity for women to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to avoid cardiovascular disease begins far earlier than previously believed. Stated another way, improvement in women’s heart health may be achieved more effectively with an earlier initiation of hormone replacement therapy than was previously thought.
Estrogen and Cardiovascular Disease
Women typically get heart disease 10 years later than men. This is because estrogen, which is produced by the female ovaries until menopause, protects premenopausal women from heart disease by relaxing and opening blood arteries. Estrogen also protects against heart disease by promoting a healthy balance of good and bad cholesterol. Conversely, in the absence of sufficient estrogen, cholesterol may begin to collect on the inner linings of arteries.
When a woman is younger, the arteries have smooth linings and flexible walls, which enables blood to flow freely. As she ages, the arterial linings get stiffer and the walls become thicker, causing blood flow to become more difficult and blood pressure to rise. And the less estrogen a woman generates as she ages, the higher the likelihood that her arteries would get restricted or blocked to the point of generating symptoms of heart disease.
Women’s Hormones & Cardiovascular Disease Risk
While it has long been documented that younger women have a lower risk of heart disease than men, this risk rises considerably around menopause. However, little was studied about the effects of perimenopause on a woman’s heart – the years before menopause during which hormone levels begin to fall.
But a ground-breaking study published in the journal Acta Physiologica recently showed that female hearts actually undergo minor changes during perimenopause, suggesting that the organ is already under stress before menopause. Since these changes are modest, they generally go undetected – but they do occur.
The study began with a mouse model that reproduced human menopause in animals. Surprisingly, some aspects of the mice heart muscle had changed early on – notably increased stress markers (pro-inflammatory cytokines proteins).
The researchers next examined the cardiac response of mice to estrogen treatment. They observed that during the equivalent of the perimenopause period, mouse hearts reacted positively to estrogen molecules, suggesting that positive molecular changes occurred during this critical transition time before menopause.
The key conclusion of this study is that time is crucial when it comes to shielding women’s hearts from hormone loss. Which indicates that physicians may need to extend the window for estrogen therapy much earlier into perimenopause, rather than waiting until menopause to begin.
Women’s Hormone Replacement Therapy | Troy, MI Area
While it is widely documented that estrogen protects and strengthens the heart, many women and their physicians have been cautious about using hormone replacement treatment for many decades owing to outdated evidence.
However, basic research on perimenopause estrogen decline and its effect on the heart indicates that early HRT intervention may have considerable long-term advantages for reducing the risk of heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease kills around one in every three women each year — that’s about one woman every minute – more than every type of cancer combined. As heart disease is the top cause of mortality for women in the United States, killing around 300,000 women each year, it is more critical than ever that women take steps to keep their hormones in balance.
Only a physician can determine if you are at risk of serious health problems due to the hormone decline of perimenopause or menopause. If you are a woman who lives in the greater Troy, MI area, schedule a consultation and thorough hormone testing with Dr. Ali. In addition to treating the symptoms of menopause, improving skin, helping weight loss and reducing the risk of osteoporosis, women’s hormone replacement therapy can also protect against cardiovascular (heart) disease.