Are you concerned about the risks of estrogen replacement? You may be confused by conflicting information. Lets set the record straight.
Menopausal symptoms aren’t for the faint of heart
There are the hot flashes, sleeplessness, and fatigue The bloating and forgetfulness (what was that word you were looking for?). And then there’s vaginal dryness that can make sex painful (if you even care about sex at all anymore!).
Estrogen replacement can help you feel normal again. But many women are fearful. They have heard that they could get breast cancer or have a heart attack, so they suffer through the symptoms. If this is you, then please read on! You don’t have to suffer any longer….
Estrogen has important benefits
First, lets talk about the benefits of estrogen. It has literally hundreds of roles in your body!
Estrogen helps to protect your heart. When you are premenopausal, your risk of a heart attack is much less than a man’s risk. But after menopause, when estrogen levels drop, the risks become equal.
It also helps to keep your tissues hydrated. Without estrogen you become dry: dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, dry hair, dry vagina……
Your bone health also depends on hormones, and estrogen in particular helps to prevent bone loss. While this may not be something you are particularly worried about right now, it should be! If you have a broken hip because of osteoporosis, there is a good chance that you will end up in assisted living. Preventing bone loss now is very important for your future mobility and independence.
Estrogen makes you look younger!
Something you may be very concerned about right now is how old you look! Estrogen affects skin health – it helps to provide hydration and blood flow to keep that youthful glow to your skin. It maintains collagen which helps keep your skin elastic to minimize fine lines and wrinkles. You may notice your skin aging rapidly as you go through menopause. One research study found that women with higher estrogen levels looked on average 8 years YOUNGER than women with low estrogen levels!
Arguably the most important role of estrogen is on the health of your brain. Estrogen is energizing to your brain, so if your estrogen levels are low you may feel more tired. It is also important for the quality of your sleep, and obviously you have to be able to sleep to have good energy!
Estrogen is an anti-depressant
Estrogen is a natural anti-depressant. Serotonin is the natural brain chemical responsible for peace and joy. Estrogen activates serotonin receptors, so obviously you want that! If your estrogen levels are low, you may feel more flat, anxious or unmotivated. You may have been prescribed an anti-depressant medication to try to boost serotonin levels (like Prozac, Celexa, or Zoloft for example). If you can normalize your estrogen levels, your mood may improve without the need for medication.
There is a very important relationship between estrogen and memory. If your estrogen level drops you may find yourself forgetting things. What is his name? Why did you walk into the room? Where did you leave the car keys? It can be alarming and you may even worry that you are experiencing the early stages of Alzheimers! Fortunately your memory can improve significantly with restoration of normal estrogen levels.
Menopause makes you gain weight
Did you know that the average woman gains 20 pounds as she goes through menopause? Estrogen deficiency can cause you to pack on the pounds, even if you haven’t changed your diet or exercise. Of course, if you are tired, unmotivated and not sleeping well you may be finding it more difficulty to maintain healthy lifestyle habits!
As you can see, estrogen is very important for how you feel, how you look and how you will age. But many women are scared of hormone replacement, so lets talk about where the fear came from and whether it is warranted.
Medical study suggested estrogen replacement is risky
In July 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study found higher risks of heart disease, strokes and breast cancer in women on hormone replacement therapy. Naturally women and their doctors were scared, and in the next 10 years hormone replacement use dropped by 79 percent.
Newer studies are showing that warning women off hormones was a mistake.
Is estrogen replacement safe?
A study done by doctors at Yale found that estrogen AVOIDANCE may have led to as many as 90,000 preventable deaths. The study found that estrogen therapy actually led to LESS deaths from heart attacks and breast cancer. According to the authors: “Estrogen therapy in younger postmenopausal women is associated with a decisive reduction in all-cause mortality” (meaning you are LESS likely to die if you are on estrogen replacement).
Women on hormones live longer!
Another study supports this. Almost half a million women in Finland were followed over 15 years. The results show that the longer the women were on estrogen replacement, the lower their risks for heart disease and strokes. In fact, all cause mortality (meaning death from ANY cause, including breast cancer) was reduced by up to 30%.
Part of the reason that you are getting conflicting messages, is because it wasn’t really estrogen that was causing the problems. In the WHI study, some women were given a synthetic drug that mimics progesterone (called medroxyprogesterone acetate). This drug is used to prevent uterine cancer, and it IS associated with an increase in the risk of breast cancer and heart disease, so please avoid it. The natural (“bio-identical”) form of progesterone has NOT been shown to have these risks, so it is a better choice.
I want you to notice that these studies were looking at medical problems, like heart attacks. They didn’t consider the effects of menopause on your marriage and other relationships. Or how the hormone changes affect your ability to function at work. Or how changes in your energy and mood are affecting the quality of your life. I think that you’ll agree these issues are also important!
You don’t have to suffer!
While estrogen is not appropriate for everyone, for most women, there is no need to suffer with symptoms of menopause due to fear of hormone replacement. Your individual risks are related to many factors including your age, whether you are using bio-identical or synthetic hormones and the delivery method of the hormones (for examples pills vs topical estrogen). Please ask us about your personal risks and the potential benefits you can expect, including improved memory, energy, mood, sleep and even younger looking skin. It is important to be well informed!