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Under 60? Menopause Drugs Are Safer Than You Think

Gynecologists and their patients around the world shared a collective, “Say what?!” moment this spring when the Women’s Health Initiative announced it’s OK for many women to treat menopause symptoms with hormone replacement therapy, also known as HRT.

The estrogen-only, and estrogen-progestin, medications were widely popular until 20 years ago. Then a massive study curtailed their use abruptly: The treatments were found to cause breast cancer, stroke and pulmonary embolism, so the whole project ceased. Doctors then only prescribed HRTs in extreme circumstances.

Now researchers have taken a fresh look and found that, simply, women under 60 can use HRTs — safely — to alleviate the hot flashes and other discomforts that might disrupt their lives.

I Can Take Meds To Deal with Menopause?

Every case is different, but overall it is totally fine to use hormone replacement therapy as a last resort during menopause until you turn 60.

Menopause — when your body evolves from its reproductive stage to the next, when you no longer menstruate — can involve many unpleasant symptoms for a short while or several years.

  • Hot flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Low libido
  • Irritability

According to the new report, HRTs might help you feel much better, which can improve your quality of life. They can also have other benefits, such as your making bones less likely to fracture, and lowering your chances at getting some cancers.

 

Can I Start HRT Right Now?

Since so many medications have side effects, it’s best to try a nonhormonal route before starting hormone replacement therapy. Options include:

  • A new FDA-approved oral product, fezolinetant, helps decrease night sweats and hot flashes.
  • A low dose of the SSRI antidepressant paroxetine addresses the same symptoms as well as depression.
  • Over-the-counter supplements made with natural ingredients such as Nordic pollen provide aid.
  • Lifestyle modifications such as wearing looser-fitting clothes and cooling indoor spaces with fans and air conditioning can help.

If you feel that you just can’t handle the menopausal side effects anymore, that hot flashes are ruining your life, you’re fatigued or you can’t bear to go near your partner, it’s time to talk to your doctor about HRT.

Get the Right HRT for You

You’ll need a prescription for hormone replacement therapy. Your doctor will choose one, in part, based on your particular needs. You can remain on HRT for up to 10 years.

Various formulations might decrease your chances of developing some issues and increase your likeliness of others. Your doctor will choose one that fits best with your current medical condition and high-risk areas.

For example, estrogen alone can help prevent breast cancer and increase risk of uterine cancer, while progestin can help prevent uterine cancer. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, you needn’t worry about how your HRT affects the uterus because you don’t have one. Estrogen and progestin prescribed together can increase the risk of breast cancer. Let a professional tackle the Jenga-like puzzle to find the right HRT for you.

Today, HRTs are available in a variety of formats:

  • Pill
  • Gel
  • Patch
  • Spray
  • Suppository

Even though HRTs can help keep many health challenges away, the study makes clear they should not be prescribed for any purpose other than to help with menopause symptoms. Talk to your doctor about other options to help your bones stay strong or to prevent cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, or breast, uterine or endometrial cancer.

If you’re 60 or over, HRTs are still not for you. They can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Speak with your medical team about finding other ways to become more comfortable.

If you’re younger than that, hormone replacement therapy could be the key to a higher quality of life.

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