Ten years ago, women were routinely encouraged to take hormones—estrogen or estrogen plus progesterone — during the transition to menopause and beyond to protect against a host of chronic, aging-related health problems. Today, most women are loathe to consider hormone therapy, even for short-term relief of hot flashes and other troublesome symptoms.
What changed? Findings from the federally funded Women's Health Initiative (WHI) showed that taking estrogen or estrogen plus progesterone was more likely to cause health problems, like blood clots in the legs or lungs, stroke, and gallbladder disease, than it was to protect against osteoporosis or colon cancer.
But the WHI left many questions unanswered, since the trial included mostly women who were well past menopause and evaluated only one type of estrogen (Premarin) and one estrogen-progestin combination (Prempro). So it's still too early to close the book on hormone therapy, especially for short-term use or relief of menopause-related symptoms, according to the March 2011 issue of the Harvard Women's Health Watch.
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