For older women with heart disease, hormone replacement therapy does not protect against heart attacks or strokes and actually increases the risk of blood clots and gall bladder disease, according to a major study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The latest findings of the Heart and Estrogen/Progestrin Replacement Study (HERS) confirm the study’s initial conclusion, published in 1998 -the risk of heart attack did not differ the 2,763 older postmenopausal women with heart disease who were randomly assigned to take hormones and placebos as part of the seven-year study. However, with the rate of blood clots twice as high for the women who took hormones and the rate of gall bladder disease 50 percent higher, “the net effect is harm,” Deborah Grady of the University of California at San Francisco, a principal author of the study, told the Washington Post.
The study did not address how hormones affect healthy women. The Women’s Health Initiative, a study of 27,000 women, will include findings on the risks and benefits of hormones for younger, healthier postmenopausal women – with a scheduled publication of 2005. At this point, experts say that for women without heart disease who are suffering from menopausal symptoms or osteoporosis, hormones remain a viable option. However, women with heart disease should consult their doctors. “It’s gotten very simple,” Grady told USA Today. “You take hormone therapy if you’ve got (menopause) symptoms that are bad enough that you need to take a medicine. And that’s kind of it.”