The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy refers to the administration of estrogen, usually in combination with progestin, to women who have reduced levels of these hormones as a result of menopause or surgical removal of the ovaries.

In the short term, HRT has the benefits of improving menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and mood swings.

In the long term, HRT provides estrogen which can help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures, and can reduce cholesterol levels (especially LDL or "bad" cholesterol) and protect against atherosclerosis.

Currently, about 10 percent of women in the United States takes HRT. Almost two-thirds of women who start taking HRT stop taking it within a few years because of side-effects such as bleeding.

Hormone Replacement Therapy for women

HRT also has some long-term risks. Taking estrogen without progestin can cause cancer of the uterus; even with progestin, HRT can increase risk of breast cancer, heart problems, gallbladder disease and stroke.

Each woman must make an individual decision, with her doctor's help, about the risks and benefits of HRT given her own condition.

For example: a post-menopausal woman with a family history of breast cancer may not be advised to start HRT. On the other hand, a women with no known risk for breast cancer, but with a high risk for osteoporosis, might well benefit from HRT.

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by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain