Ageing, Health, Research - ageing

How long should we use HRT?

HRT shortage in Australia

Recently, the SMH reported that a key pharmaceutical company had experienced an interruption in its supply of HRT dermal patches. This resulted in a shortage in Australia. One lady explained the treatment is critical to her wellbeing.  It relieves her of savage menopausal symptoms such as vomiting and painful migraine headaches. The lady is 75 and has been using the treatment for 25 years, and will need the patches for the rest of her life.

This got me thinking – is it safe to use hormone therapy for more than 20 years? I had a look around the inter web and found the general consensus is – do what you need to, but be aware of the potential risks!

From the 1960s to the new century …. from a state of bodily bliss to mental panic

Hormone therapy has been around for decades, becoming popular in the 60s. Women finally experienced relief from menopausal symptoms – hot flushes, night sweats, fuzzy-headedness. We were further assured that the HRT could be protecting us from osteoporosis and heart disease.

Then about 40 years later, in 2002, women became very alarmed by the results of testing that showed two issues:

1) that the extended use of HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer and

2) that the use of HRT may increase the risk of heart disease. (Women’

There were stories that suggests that HRT can increase your risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke. (The US National Library of Medicine). Experts  suggested hormone therapy should be re-evaluated every six months. 

I wonder how many women in Australia visit their GP six-monthly the review their treatment?

So many types of HRT

There are more than 50 types of Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRT).  Women can apply them in a variety of ways. Pills, creams, pessaries and patches can deliver oestrogen and/or progestogen; there are also bio-identical preparations that compounding chemists can make, again in a range of delivery methods.

pic of clary sage oil
Clary sage oil

Writing about bio-identical hormone therapy, natural medicine advocate Dr Axe suggests that ‘lifestyle changes like exercising, using herbal supplements and improving your diet can help give you most (if not all) of the same benefits.’  Dr Axe recommends that hormone-balancing difficulties  such as weight, sleep, mood and energy could be managed through low-inflammatory diets, herbal remedies, acupuncture, exercise and stress management. He also recommends the use of essential oils to balance hormones, such as clary sage, thyme and sandalwood essential oils.

So what should we do?

Like so many health challenges, the decision to use – or not use – hormone replacement therapy comes down to the individual. Keeping informed is the best thing we can do for ourselves. We may take advice from other women, our medical professionals, magazine articles, web advice.

The Women’s Health Concern blog summarises that hormone therapy is okay if:

  • HRT is taken for the correct reasons, i.e. to alleviate the symptoms of the menopause. It has a role in the prevention of osteoporosis but long term use is often required
  • HRT is taken for only as long as necessary at the lowest effective dose
  • HRT users are assessed by their GP at least once a year.

Do you have a view? I’d love to hear your input and so would other readers. 

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3 thoughts on “How long should we use HRT?

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  2. I’ve been on bio identical progesterone cream (compounded) for most of the past 20 years. I haven’t had any adverse symptoms and my bone density improved 4% last check. Not scientific evidence but I feel safer on the bio identical rather than other forms of HRT. I haven’t found many doctors are educated to this form of treatment. Unfortunately, health funds stopped covering these prescriptions several years ago..
    Thank you for another informative article, Beverley.

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