Hormone Therapy ArticleHormone Therapy

The Heart of the Matter

Are you bothered by menopausal symptoms but afraid that hormone therapy (HT) will increase your risk of heart disease? Pascha E. Schafer, MD, a cardiologist with the Georgia Regents Cardiovascular Center, addresses those concerns. “Although all women should take heart disease seriously, the risk of HT on heart health varies depending on your overall health,” she says.

Is Hormone Therapy Right for You?

“Most healthy women can safely take short-term HT for menopausal symptoms without significantly increasing their risk of heart disease,” Dr. Schafer says. “But that’s a decision you’ll need to make with your gynecologist.” If you stopped having periods or lost the normal function of your ovaries before age 40, you may need estrogen for a longer time to protect against the health effects of estrogen deficiency. “However, long-term HT is no longer recommended just to reduce the risk of heart disease,” Dr. Schafer says. 
“If you’ve already had a heart attack or have heart disease or a history of blood clots, the risks of taking HT generally outweigh the benefits,” Dr. Schafer says.

Easy Does It 

If you are a candidate for HT, Dr. Schaefer suggests you speak to your gynecologist about: 
  • Using a form of therapy that minimizes absorption, such as vaginal preparations or skin patches 
  • Finding the lowest effective dose and taking it for the shortest possible time 
  • Making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and giving up cigarettes, to reduce your overall risk of heart disease. “And be sure to have regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings,” she says. 
  • Discussing other possible risks of HT
“Your gynecologist can evaluate your overall risks, determine if HT is right for you and prescribe the appropriate type and dosage,” Dr. Schafer says.  To schedule an appointment with a gynecologist or a cardiologist, call (706) 721-2273 (CARE). 

How is Your Heart Health?

A coronary calcium scan can help answer that question and guide treatment planning. These painless, noninvasive scans take only five minutes. Most insurance plans do not yet cover this valuable test, but the scan and physician interpretation cost only $100. To schedule a scan, call 706-721-XRAY (9729) or click here.