To many women, the choice is obvious: if hormone replacement provides slight relief for some of the uncomfortable stages of menopause but increases their risks of catastrophic disease, then they should stop taking hormones.But for many other women, the choices aren’t quite that clear. First, the increased risks indicated by the WHI and National Cancer Institute studies are not huge. Women contract the same diseases that they do without the hormones; they just do so in ever so slightly higher numbers. We take much worse risks by driving on freeways and breathing polluted air in big cities.
Whatever you decide to do, the choice should feel right for you. Also, you should understand each of the factors associated with your decision. While doctors can no longer afford the luxury of having long talks with patients to explain procedures and the effects of treatment, you can get referrals to women’s health specialists and clinics to explore your options further.
We tend to trust our doctors with our lives. If our family physicians and gynecologists have been insisting for years that we take hormones as soon as we notice early signs of menopause (the earliest stage is called perimenopause), then can we ever trust them again?Remember that doctors weigh the health risks and benefits to you according to the information they have. They read journal articles, attend conferences and take continuing education classes to make sure their information is up to date. The information that was released in July 2002 was a surprise to everyone. It’s not that no one knew there might be risks; it was just the first time that the data revealed that the risks outweighed the benefits.
Your Bones, Your Health
If you decide to stop hormone replacement therapy, you should continue to pay close attention to the strength of your bones, your heart and your general health. If hormones are not for you, make sure you get plenty of calcium in your diet or take supplements. Read all that you can about calcium absorption and talk to health care professionals about bone health.
If you’re overweight and lead a sedentary life, work out a health plan with your doctor for the sake of your heart. Make sure that your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal.
For each health condition that was formerly addressed by hormone replacement therapy, a number of treatment options exist. Make it your business to find out what you can do. Follow the links at the bottom of each of the pages on this site to learn more about maintaining good health as you age.