Hormone Therapy May Have Cardiovascular Benefits For Women

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According to the NIH, heart disease is the #1 killer of women.  So, ladies, please read and share this with the sisterhood!

Women appear to reap cardiovascular benefits from hormone therapy when it is taken soon after menopause, according to results from the Early Versus Late Intervention Trial With Estradiol (ELITE), published March 31 in the New England Journal of Medicine.  This was a double-blind randomized control trial. The study was carried out by researchers from Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and was funded by National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health.

The study found that women who took hormone therapy (HT) who were less than 6 years past menopause had a slow progression toward atherosclerosis (hardening and thickening of the arteries which can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks or strokes), but not when it was initiated 10 or more years after menopause.

Science Daily reports: “The ELITE results, in context with decades of studies on hormone therapy and vascular degeneration, provides strong evidence that the cardiovascular benefits of hormone therapy are dependent on timing of initiation,” said Howard N. Hodis, MD, director of the Atherosclerosis Research Unit and professor of medicine and preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and principle investigator of the study. “The stratification of participants into early and late postmenopause was a unique feature of ELITE. We believe that applying this design to further examination of heart disease prevention could ultimately prove immensely fruitful for women’s health.”

“ELITE provides proof of concept and first direct evidence from human investigation that timing of hormone therapy is imperative for success in the prevention of atherosclerosis progression, the primary underlying pathway that leads to heart disease and stroke,” Hodis added. “The concept of timing of initiation of an intervention is likely applicable to most preventive approaches to cardiovascular disease in women.”

“Building from these data, the ELITE researchers intend to investigate why hormone therapy is more effective in the earlier stages of postmenopause and whether or not non-hormonal therapies provide the same effect. In doing so, they hope to contribute to the development of more effective, precise and target-driven therapies to prevent heart disease in women.”

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Cathy Chester

    We have a lot of heart issues in my family plus my dad had a catastrophic stroke. I am the only one in my family not on Lipitor so I really need to be careful with cardiovascular! Many thanks for this (as always) important post, Ellen. Wonderful information for all of us.

    • My father and his parents all died young from heart disease. So, I totally understand what you are saying, Cathy. I know you take good care of you! Perhaps, speak to your doctor about doing a yearly lipid profile and maybe having a Coronary Calcium Scan, once in awhile. This measures calcium/calcifications in the walls of the coronary (heart) arteries. It helps to measure risk factors.

  • Risa Nye

    Fascinating! Thanks for posting.

    • I hope the info helps women have information to speak to their menopause specialist about when the time comes to address their menopausal issues!

  • Diane

    I was wondering about the product Osphena?

    • If you are having vaginal dryness, there are many options available to discuss with your menopause specialist. Osphena is a non-estrogen medication that reverses certain changes in vaginal tissue that are caused by menopause. It is often used to relieve pain during sexual intercourse in menopausal women. There are other options to help with the issue such as local estrogen therapy, moisturizers, and lubricants. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Speak to your menopause specialist so that they can understand your personal health history and help make an individual plan that works for you. If you don’t have a menopause specialist, download my fee eBook http://ellendolgen.com/menopause-book – read Chapter 13 for some helpful tips!

  • This is so interesting. The problem I have with all the research is that it’s virtually impossible to sort through it and figure out your best course of action. Or at least be able to discuss intelligently with your doctor.

    • I agree, there is so much info out there – it can make your head spin! I try to report on the most significant research and refrain from passing on anything that is not from a credible source. Still, in the end, it is up to a woman and her menopause specialist to determine what is her best course of action. The studies and information are points of discussion with your specialist. For example, if one has heart disease in their family history and is experiencing menopausal symptoms the findings in this study should be discussed with your doctors.

  • This topic has been an ongoing source of stress between my doctor and I. To take it, to not take it. I’ve been in menopause (surgically) for five years now and was never placed on it after surgery. Changed docs since then and new doc says I should be on it. I won’t do it for a number of reasons, but this article answered a couple of questions I’ve had. So far, my symptoms don’t warrant HR, but what is happening inside my body, well out of my control I suppose.

    • You can download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriends Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause http://ellendolgen.com/menopause-book Read Chapter 21 addressed Surgically Induced Menopause (Hysterectomy and Oophorectomy) and Premature Menopause. I have many doctor interviews in this chapter that might be worth reading.

  • CaptCruncher

    Timing of intervention…what an interesting finding that could lead to so much more valuable research. With good education this new knowledge might just make a huge difference in quality of life for women as we we age! Thanks Ellen!

    • Makes sense to me that timing would be important.

  • cis

    We cannot really draw ANY conclusions from your article (without reading the original paper) because the following details are not mentioned:
    – how large was the study (how many participants)?
    – who funded the study? (conflicts of interest)
    – what was the actual intervention (in this case, exact type of HRT?) (as we know, effects and side effects are different for different types of intervention)

    There is really too much conflict of interest in any area related to medications. Do your own research ladies!

    • I encourage women to click on the links in the news flash and read the studies/reports themselves. The New England Journal of Medicine link is there. This way they can read more details and discuss with their menopause specialists.

      • cis

        Great. What I am saying perhaps you could be a little more specific when making some statements (like type of estrogen supplementation). I am pretty sure most people do NOT follow the links and check for themselves so they may get the wrong impression about what the studies actually say.
        Also, some reporters also simply “scrape” articles like yours without checking the sources and often end up misreporting findings.

  • Cathy Lawdanski

    My doctor has always told me that the HRT I was on could be helpful in preventing heart disease.

    • Your doctor was def on the cutting edge of the science.

  • Elin Stebbins Waldal

    I always appreciate your ability to bring information forward, of course each individual needs to research further, but I feel as if your articles are the equivalent of a running start. Thanks for your tireless work, Ellen.

    • Thank you, Elin. That is the purpose of my research. The ELITE trial, the Early Vs Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol, preliminary results were reported at the American Heart Association meeting by Dr Howard Hodis and colleagues. The purpose of the trial was to provide further support for the timing hypothesis, or the critical window-of-opportunity hypothesis, for hormone therapy to slow atherosclerosis progression. This study started in 2004. So you can imagine how costly it is to follow women for this long that is why you need someone like The National Institute on Aging (NIA) to sponsor these kinds of studies. It is true that medicine is a business, however, thanks to research and science we are able to help people live healthier lives.

  • interesting info – I’ll be keeping my eye on research now

    • Good idea! It is so helpful to be up on the latest information in women’s menopause health. If you start having menopause symptoms you can discuss this new study your menopause specialist.