Experts Have A Warning For Menopausal People Interested In Using Hormonal Therapy

As you enter menopause, a time when your body is rapidly losing estrogen and progesterone, you may experience debilitating symptoms as you experience swift hormonal shifts (via Cleveland Clinic). As a result, many doctors prescribe estrogen and/or progesterone to help lessen the symptoms, which include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, irritability, and depression.

Using hormonal therapy during menopause has a long history of controversy. In 1991, clinical studies, known as the Women's Health Initiative were done by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It was the largest study of its kind and sought to find out whether hormonal therapy protects against heart disease and other major illnesses. However, what scientists learned from the study is that using hormonal therapy was more detrimental to postmenopausal health, and caused an elevated risk of stroke, heart disease, blood clots, and cancer (via U.S. News & World Report).

Yet, hormonal therapy is still given to help alleviate symptoms and often under the assumption that it does protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Now, a new study reaffirms the original recommendation.

Hormonal therapy will not protect against chronic disease, says study

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force performed another study of the risk of hormonal therapy in relation to preventing chronic disease (via Jama). It found that hormonal therapy does not benefit the prevention of chronic illness. "We concluded there is no net benefit. The benefits and risks cancel each other out," task Force panel member Dr. James Stevermer told HealthDay.

Furthermore, not only does hormonal therapy not improve heart disease, but it has a correlation with urinary incontinence, gallbladder disease, and dementia. Yet, on a positive note, it has been found to help with bone loss and colon cancer.

While the authors of the study aren't saying that hormonal therapy shouldn't be taken to help ease menopausal symptoms, they don't recommend that it be given with the goal of warding off heart attack, stroke, or blood clots. Stevermer says that a better way to ward off chronic disease is to eat healthfully, exercise, promptly treat any chronic medical conditions, and undergo regular health screenings.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises those undergoing menopause to speak with their OB-GYN to personally assess their risk depending on their symptoms, medical conditions, and family history. They also recommend an ongoing annual assessment if you take hormonal therapy to evaluate whether you should continue each year.