I am always interested in any research being done on women and heart disease. Many of us are unaware that cardiovascular disease (CVD, or heart disease and stroke) is the number one cause of death in women.
Therefore, I was excited to be contacted by Dr. Howard N. Hodis, M.D. Principal Investigator at the Atherosclerosis Research Unit (ARU) at the University of Southern California (USC), a recognized leading center for atherosclerosis research in women and its prevention for 25+ years. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is the accumulation of cholesterol-containing plaques in arteries and is the foremost cause of death in the United States today. It can block the circulation of blood to the heart and brain, causing a heart attack, angina (chest pain), and stroke.
Most women think that breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women. Dr. Hodis provided me the actual stats, “4% of women die from breast cancer, whereas 53% die from CVD (cardiovascular disease). More than 90% of deaths are due to atherosclerosis, which occurs after menopause when a women’s production of estrogen disappears. The earlier the onset of menopause, the greater the chance of dying from CVD.”
There still is so much confusion about the reckless reporting of the WHI 2002 study, which propelled women to dump their MHT (Menopausal Hormone Therapy) – cold turkey! To this day, many women believe that if they take hormones, they will get breast cancer and possibly have a heart attack.
Dr. Hodis confirmed that although there is confusion surrounding the use of MHT (menopausal hormone therapy), estrogen-based hormone therapy continues to show great promise. In the Women’s Health Initiative (largest trial of MHT), women without a uterus who were less than 60 years of age when starting estrogen-alone therapy showed less heart disease, less breast cancer, and less death than women not taking estrogen. However, most women have a uterus that requires the use of other hormones such as progestin and progesterone, to protect the uterus. When combined with estrogen, these additional hormones appear to have a slight increase risk however, any association that may exist between HT and breast cancer appears to be rare and no greater than other medications commonly used in clinical medicine.
Education and research are the best ways to counter confusion surrounding MHT and to improve women’s health. The University of Southern California (USC) is conducting a study to determine the cardiovascular effects of a new FDA-approved menopause therapy for women with a uterus. This therapy, known as bazedoxifene/estrogen (BZA/CE), delivers estrogen without the risks from progestin or progesterone. The Advancing Postmenopausal Preventive Therapy (APPT) study is open to women 45-59 years of age who have a uterus. APPT will determine whether BZA/CE slows the progression of hardening of the arteries (the underlying cause of CVD) and cognitive aging (mental function). APPT is a way to help get answers and to contribute to the advancement of women’s health in a carefully monitored setting.
If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in this three-year study, you can call (323)-442-2257 or visit aru.usc.edu. Participants will need to be able to come to the Atherosclerosis Research Unit on the USC Health Sciences Campus in Los Angeles every 1 to 2 months for evaluation and testing.
Kudos to the NIH for funding this important study on women about women’s heart health!
Remember: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN.
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