Study revisits HRT heart attack risk

A new Danish study involving nearly 700,000 women showed that hormone replacement therapy might not put women at increased risk of heart disease, after all. 

In 2002, the Women's Health Initiative study ended because of an increased risk of breast cancer, blood clots, stroke and heart attack in women taking a combination of estrogen and progestin. The study found an increased risk for breast cancer of nearly 25 percent for women taking either Premarin or Prempro.

Because of the announcement, many women discontinued the medications and sales of hormone replacement therapeutics dropped like a rock.

The researchers did not find any increased risk in older women taking the medication, but younger women, aged 51 to 54 years, had a risk of heart attack that was 24 percent higher than women who had never tried the therapy did. And women taking estrogen and progesterone together on a daily basis, as is the case with those taking Prempro, had a 35 percent greater risk.

However, this new study finds that taking the medication differently can lower the risk of heart attack, regardless of the type of estrogen or progesterone. Using a cyclic dosing strategy as well as applying the medication using a skin patch or a vaginal gel both lowered the risk of heart attack with HRT use.

Despite the new study findings, the authors still recommend taking the lowest dose of hormone replacement therapy for the least amount of time.

The study is published in the European Heart Journal.

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