The Hormone Therapy - Breast Cancer Connection
Hormones and Your Heart
Severe menopause symptoms are the only reason women should take HT. If you do take hormones, according to both the WHI and the Nurses' Health Study, be aware that timing is crucial in terms of how they may affect your heart. "Women in the Nurses' Study who began hormone therapy near menopause had about a 30 percent lower risk for heart disease than nurses the same age who were not taking hormone therapy," says JoAnn Manson, MD, PhD, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital. And estrogen and progestin users in the WHI who started hormones within 10 years of menopause showed an 11 percent lower risk of heart problems. Those who took estrogen only (they'd had hysterectomies) had a lower risk of heart attack than similar women who didn't take estrogen.
By contrast, WHI women who started estrogen plus progestin 10 to 19 years past menopause had a 22 percent higher risk for heart attack (though there was no increase in risk for women taking estrogen alone). Why doctors think timing matters: Estrogen probably protects healthy arteries but can't repair those that are already damaged.
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