Hormone replacement therapy not so therapeutic after all

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 10th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Once the hot flashes, mood swings and spotting start, women often turn to hormone replacement therapy, or H-R-T, to quell these symptoms and ease past menopause. H-R-T can also prevent bone fractures from osteoporosis, but the latest research shows that the practice’s risks may outweigh its benefits.

A report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine summarized the findings from hormone treatment trials and noted that women taking combination estrogen plus progestin hormones after menopause are more likely to face breast cancer, strokes, heart attacks, dementia, gallbladder disease and urinary incontinence. Because of this, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force renewed its stance against the use of hormone replacement therapy after menopause has taken hold.

Other recent studies suggest that women who take H-R-T around the time of menopause may be able to safely relieve symptoms without the increased risks of cancer and heart disease, although long-term studies are still lacking. In addition, certain herbal remedies may help combat the menopause blues.

Black cohosh, made from the black cohosh plant, is the top-selling herbal supplement for menopause symptoms in the U.S. It’s made from the root of the North American black cohosh plant. Several studies have found it helps — especially with hot flashes — but you shouldn’t use it if you have liver problems. When combined with St. John’s Wort, it can also ease mood swings. Lignans (lig-NUNS) in flax seed may ease night sweats. The natural plant estrogens in red clover might ease menopause symptoms, but women with estrogen-positive cancer should speak with a doctor before taking it.

And of course, it’s critical to get enough calcium. Women 50 or younger need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. For the over-51 set, the proper dosage jumps to twelve-hundred milligrams of calcium a day.

Many of the herbal remedies have not been researched extensively, so women should discuss their symptoms with a health care provider before embarking on any new treatments.