Review on January 28, 2010
Menopause is characterized by a dip in female hormones. Because of this, hormone therapy is often proscribed. While hormone therapy is considered the most effective treatment for menopause and its symptoms, it is important to be aware of its side effects, particularly strokes. Francine Grodstein et al.'s 2008 study "Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy and Strokes" deals with this issue. It begins by noticing that the Nurses Health Study (NHS) found a 35% increase in strokes for women using hormone therapy during menopause. Also, the Women's Health Initiate (WHI) reported an elevated risk of stroke by as much as 30% to 40% for those taking hormones. These hormones include estrogen combined with progesterone or the hormone estrogen alone.
Grodstein et al.'s 2008 findings duplicate the 2008 Women's Health Initiate's. Both studies concluded that there was a 30% to 40% increased risk of stroke for menopause women presently taking the hormone estrogen or the hormone estrogen combined with progesterone. Also, the two studies agreed that there was no difference whether someone had ingested hormones during the beginning of menopause or towards the end of menopause in their rate of stroke. Since women who are at the beginning of menopause, and therefore young, run a very small risk for stroke, so they should not worry so much about taking hormones.
Grodstein et al.'s study found independently of the Women's Health Initiate that what was most important was the hormone dosage that one took. At the smallest estrogen dose, 0.3 miligrams of the hormone estrogen, no great threat for stroke was posed for women suffering hormone depletion from menopause. Only 9 nurses in the study died from stroke at this dose, which is half the rate for nurses who had not taken hormone therapy. The implications of this are interesting to ponder. Conversely, there was a greater risk for stroke with the increasing use of the hormone estrogen by women suffering from menopause. However, the study did find one tangible benefit to taking hormones: the sooner one initiates hormone therapy, the lower the risk of heart disease.
The results of this study show us that one needs to weigh the risk of hormone therapy during menopause carefully. Doctors have proclaimed hormone therapy to be the most effective treatment for menopause symptoms. However, the benefits of hormone therapy during menopause must be weighed against the likelihood that a women is to suffer a stroke. This depends on a woman's age and the dosage that she is receiving.