Review on February 04, 2010
Menopause is a very traumatic time for a woman and her body and one of the most common treatments available in the fight against menopausal symptoms is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Although many women find this treatment effective, research has linked it to an increased risk of breast cancer which has put many patients off using the treatment no matter how severe their menopausal symptoms. Recently, more medical professionals have also started to discuss the implications of HRT use for menopausal symptoms and a possible link to strokes in post menopausal women. Although, until recently, no research on this topic existed a stroke can be so devastating and of course possibly fatal that it seems prudent to identify the possible stroke risk in order to help the millions of women across the world currently taking HRT as a treatment for menopausal symptoms.
This research, undertaken by staff at the Group Health Cooperative (GHC) was carried out in the greater Seattle area and included information about 939 women all of whom suffered from strokes from July 1989 to December 1998. These women were also all post menopausal. The research included the sufferers of 726 ischemic strokes and 213 hemorrhagic strokes. These women had their medical history reviewed and there use of replacement hormones assessed through computerized pharmacy data in order to establish any links between the onset of menopausal symptoms, the use of alternative hormones as a result and the strokes they later suffered from.
The results the survey showed that stroke risk was not increased in women taking estrogen with progestin as a form of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). There was also no difference between these women and those that had never used replacement hormones.
However the study did highlight the increased risk of stroke in the first 6 months of HRT use for women suffering from menopausal symptoms. Menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances, are usually caused by wavering estrogen levels which can be treated by replacement hormones. However this research has also shown increased levels of estrogen during HRT treatment can increase the risk of stroke by a higher level than those women who were only treated with smaller levels of estrogen hormones.
Although these results show that long term risk of both hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes is minimal with HRT, the fact that there might be added danger for menopausal symptom sufferers within the first six months of the treatment indicates that more research should be undertaken on this subject. Certainly, menopausal symptoms can often be traumatic and uncomfortable leading many women to search for an effective and safe treatment and more research needs to be undertaken in order to make sure all treatments are reliable and do not come with adverse side effects.
- JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical Association - Arch Intern Med. 2002;162:1954-1960.