By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: May 26, 2010
The topic of hormone therapy inevitably comes up in many discussions between women, in newspapers, books and magazines. The issue of whether or not to take hormones is a choice many women need to make. Eighty-five percent of all women going through menopause experience menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, joint pains, vaginal dryness, etc.
Women seek comfort and relief from troubling menopausal symptoms and look to improve their quality of life. They also want protection and prevention. However, it’s very difficult for women to objectively weigh the benefits and risks of hormone therapy as more and more headlines appear in newspapers about clinical research study results.
It’s important for women to not just read only the headline, but to read the entire article and discuss with their healthcare provider how the article corresponds to their particular health situation.
Recently, the world’s largest study of quality of life and hormone therapy was published in the British Medical Journal. The study, conducted in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, is called WISDOM (Women’s International Study of Long Duration Oestrogen after Menopause).1 The study randomized 3,712 women aged 50-69 with a uterus on combined estrogen and progesterone or placebo. The hormone therapy administered was 0.625 mg of conjugated equine estrogen plus medroxyprogesterone acetate 2.5/5 mg (known as Prempro® in the USA) for one year. Several questionnaires were administered to the participants before the study began and at regular intervals.
The WISDOM Study confirmed the efficacy of hormone therapy in the control of the two most frequent symptoms of menopause: hot flushes and night sweats. After one year at the end of the trial, 78% of the women who had hot flushes and used hormone therapy were symptom free whereas only 35% of the women on placebo were symptom free. Similarly, 67% of those with night sweats had no symptom after one year of using hormone therapy, compared with 38% of those on placebo.
Additionally there were also benefits in other domains of quality of life, like sexual functioning, aching joints and muscles, but no significant benefit on depressive symptoms.
Bottom line, despite all the bad press since the clinical data of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was released, hormone therapy still is an effective treatment for troublesome symptoms of menopause and improves overall quality of life. Achieving good quality of life should be a goal in menopause medicine. It’s important for women to weigh medical information, taking into consideration their own personal situation, and then make the choice of whether to take or not take hormone therapy. Women should not just leap to a decision, but develop a strategy by gathering information and talking to a healthcare provider whose knowledge you can trust. Taking hormones may provide dramatic relief for symptoms of menopause, but there are other approaches which may offer great success and should be considered. In addition, it’s important to make healthy lifestyle changes, particularly when your body is experiencing lower levels of estrogen. These should include exercise, good nutrition and stress reduction.
- Welton AJ, Vickers MR, Kim J et al. Health related quality of life after combined hormone replacement therapy: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2008;337: a 1190