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HRT and Your Heart

Three studies presented at this year's American College of Cardiology's Annual Meeting (3/01) indicate that estrogen helps improve several markers of cardiovascular disease.

In one clinical trial, researchers concluded that low-dose estrogen has a beneficial effect on blood vessels similar to that of standard doses of estrogen.

In an experimental animal model study, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) resulted in a lower tendency to develop blood clots, which may indicate a reduction of heart problems in postmenopausal women treated preventively with ERT.

It is well known that both hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and a popular cholesterol-lowering drug, simvastatin, produce favorable changes in blood cholesterol levels; another study presented showed that when combined, they were more effective than either therapy alone. This supports the National Cholesterol Education Program recommendation to consider HRT when treating high cholesterol in postmenopausal women.

A fourth study presented showed that estrogen therapy may not slow progression of atheroscleotic plaque buildup in women who already had coronary heart disease. These results are consistent with several other studies [which showed that estrogen does not impact the risks of heart disease in women who are already significantly affected [e.g. the 1998 Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS) indicating that HRT did not have a significant effect on the overall rate of cardiac events in postmenopausal women with heart disease]. 

The body of evidence in this arena supports that estrogen may have a primary preventive benefit in reducing heart disease risk, but not a therapeutic one.

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Created: 9/12/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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