Tuesday, April 29, 2008

HRT and Stroke Risk

Another new HRT study -- this one finds middle-aged women who take hormone replacement therapy to ease menopausal symptoms increase their risk of stroke.

Here's the scoop... According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the overall risk of stroke is low for women in their early 50s just entering menopause and the heightened risk may be minimal if they follow recommendations to take lower doses of the hormones for the shortest possible time.

Using data from 121,700 female nurses participating in the Nurses' Health Study, which began in 1976, researchers found women taking estrogen had a 39 percent increased risk of stroke compared to women who did not take the hormone.

Here's more from the Reuters article:

Women taking an estrogen-progestin combination to protect against ovarian cancer had a 27 percent higher risk of stroke.

There were 360 strokes among women who did not take hormone therapy and 414 strokes among those who did.

The percentage increase in stroke risk was similar for women regardless of whether they were in their early 50s and newly menopausal, or older. But because the starting point for stroke risk among the younger women was lower -- 3.8 strokes per 10,000 women per year -- the percentage increase represented fewer additional cases of stroke.

"It added to up to two more cases of stroke per 10,000 women per year taking hormone therapy," Dr. JoAnn Manson of Harvard Medical School, who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview.
The numbers referenced in this study might not be a clincher for anti-HRT folks (or pro-HRT depending on how you break it down), but once again I'm left wondering what kind of diet/exercise regime the women not taking HRT followed. I know the nurses' study is a following study -- researchers check in with the women from time to time, but I'm not sure if a specific diet is prescribed for all participants to follow. It seems like no small thing to control the study for dietary intake.

Here's the study I would like to see... women who choose to take HRT vs. women who follow a holistic program of dietary change/exercise/nutritional supplementation (a la the WomentoWomen.com program). Let's see how these populations match in terms of stroke risk, cancer rates, etc. and then maybe some important decisions about HRT and its effectiveness/risk will be revealed once and for all.

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