Hormone replacement therapy is commonly prescribed to help with menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes. However, it may also have other positive effects on your overall health and quality of life.
In fact, there’s a lot of evidence out there that suggests it may help protect you from many serious health conditions, including top causes of death among women in the U.S. This begs the question, could hormone replacement therapy (HRT) actually save your life?
Of course, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of HRT for you personally with one of our providers. However, a lot of studies do show positive effects of taking hormones around the time of menopause. In this article, we’ll explore some of the research behind hormone therapy’s potentially life-saving outcomes for menopausal women.
Several studies have looked at the association between hormone therapy and all-cause mortality, which is death by any cause. One 2018 study analyzed results from the Women’s Health Initiative, which was a large menopausal hormone therapy trial conducted in the U.S.
The researchers in the 2018 study looked for risks for all-cause mortality in an 18 year follow up of the women in the study. The researchers looked at one group who used hormone replacement therapy and another that didn’t.
In the study, the researchers found that menopausal HRT was not associated with a higher risk for mortality of any cause, including cardiovascular- or cancer-related death. In addition, the data showed that women taking hormones had fewer deaths from COPD and dementia.
One important distinguishing factor was that most of the women in the study used hormone replacement therapy for a relatively short amount of time and started taking hormones close to the time of menopause. The women the researchers studied took combination hormone therapy (estrogen plus progesterone) for about five years, while the estrogen-only group took hormones for about seven years.
Current evidence shows that, for most women, the benefits of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the risks as long as they begin therapy within 10 years of menopause and younger than age 60.
Additionally, hormone replacement therapy can help reduce many risks from health conditions, including some of the top causes of death for American women.
According to the CDC, the top killers of women include:
Hormone replacement therapy may reduce risks of development and complication for many of these common causes of death in women. Let’s look at some of the evidence:
Currently, heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the U.S. What many women don’t know is that menopause may increase the risk for developing heart disease, likely due to lower estrogen levels in the body.
Estrogen affects practically every tissue in the body, including in the cardiovascular system. Many doctors believe that estrogen plays a protective role for the cardiovascular system, which may explain why women on average develop heart disease much later than men.
Hormone replacement therapy can have many positive effects for your heart health, including increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and helping the blood vessels relax and reduce constriction. Therefore, taking estrogen during menopause may be beneficial for your heart health.
Though, there is a drawback as well. Estrogen may also increase the risk for blood clots. Therefore, it’s important to talk about specific risk factors to your cardiovascular health with our providers to determine if estrogen replacement therapy Is right for you.
Chronic respiratory diseases are another common cause of death in women. HRT may also help reduce the risk of these serious conditions.
Lung function naturally declines as we get older. Our lungs essentially peak in our mid-twenties and then gradually decline over time. Women often see accelerated reduction in lung function after menopause, likely due to changing hormone levels.
However, studies show that HRT may improve lung function decline over time. One study from 2017 did a 20-year follow up to look at lung function for women using hormone replacement therapy. They found that the women who used HRT had better lung function scores compared to women who didn’t use hormones. The researchers concluded this may be particularly important for women at risk for chronic respiratory issues.
Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s are all another risk to your health as you age. However, there is evidence that hormone therapy may be associated with lower rates of these diseases.
For instance, one 2020 study found that taking estrogen replacement therapy reduced the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease compared to women who never used HRT in the study.
In addition, other research has found that hormone therapy for menopause decreases the risk for several neurodegenerative conditions. In one study from 2021, researchers found that women who used HRT for six years or longer were 79% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and 77% less likely to develop any neurological condition during the study follow up.
Therefore, estrogen replacement therapy may help protect your brain as you age, which is essential, as conditions like Alzheimer’s are a common cause of death for women in the United States.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease that commonly causes early death. This is where you have chronically high blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious damage throughout your body, including to the nerves and blood vessels.
Medical studies have also found that HRT during menopause may help improve diabetes outcomes. Estrogen may reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. It can also increase insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control for women with diabetes.
There may be many reasons for these positive effects, including that estrogen can help reduce body fat and improve body fat distribution. However, it may also aid with insulin secretion from the pancreas and help your body use insulin more effectively on a cellular level.
Kidney disease is another serious concern for women’s health. Your kidneys are responsible for removing toxins from the blood, turning them into urine so your body can get rid of them. Chronic kidney disease is another leading cause of death for women.
Hormone replacement therapy may also protect kidney function after menopause. Research from 2015 found that women who used hormone therapy after menopause had better kidney function. Maintaining hormone levels through HRT may help reduce the development and progression of kidney disease for postmenopausal women.
Therefore, this is another way that hormone therapy may help protect your health in your postmenopausal years.
Our providers at HerKare are here to help you maintain your health at every stage of life. We offer hormone replacement therapy solutions for menopause to alleviate your symptoms and your overall health.
Our goal is to provide women with a space where they feel empowered to take charge of their health. That’s why we offer convenient, affordable health care for women. Contact us today to make an appointment at one of our clinic locations!