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New American Heart Association Scientific Advisory on HRT

In light of recent research, the American Heart Association (AHA) has published a Scientific Advisory entitled "Hormone Replacement Therapy and Cardiovascular Disease" (Circulation, 7/24/01).  In it, the AHA clarifies its recommendations about estrogen and hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women.  According to the AHA, women currently taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the non-cardiac benefits do not need to stop. But women should not start taking hormones just to try to prevent heart trouble, especially if they already have heart disease.  This is called "secondary prevention". 

Doctors have long believed that, for women, HRT has preventive benefits against heart disease. But the AHA is concerned about some conflicting evidence that has come to light over the past few years.  Three different studies have suggested that while HRT does provide preventive cardiac benefits for healthy menopausal women ("primary prevention"), women who already have established heart disease or who have already had a heart attack may not get a substantial cardiac benefit.  In fact, those women may have an increased risk of cardiac problems in their first year of HRT.

Currently, various forms of HRT combining estrogen and progesterone are prescribed to about 20 million American women.  HRT is not indicated to prevent or treat heart disease.  HRT is indicated--and FDA approved--to treat menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, and to prevent or treat osteoporosis.

For more information about menopause, click here.  For more information about women and heart disease, click here.

Created: 7/26/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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