A major health concern for women after menopause is the risk of heart attack and stroke. Throughout the last decade, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been used to treat menopausal symptoms and help prevent cardiovascular disease. Now, there is a large body of evidence that has shown that women who take HRT are also at a lower risk of heart disease.

In the first 5-10 years after menopause, estrogen is actually effective in preventing cardiovascular disease. It is in this group that HRT can make a difference. This concept was discovered in the first and only prospective, double blinded, placebo controlled study of HRT in older women, called the Women’s Health Initiative Study (WHI). This was a controlled study designed to test the hypothesis that HRT is beneficial in preventing heart disease in women. Primarily studied were older women, well past menopause.

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and an opportunity for us to consider ways in which women can empower themselves when facing the possibility of this disease. A woman can make lifestyle decisions for prevention, choose to access early detection methods for diagnosis, and understand her options if diagnosed with breast cancer.

With respect to prevention, it can be as basic as diet and exercise choices. We know that diets focused on richly colored vegetables and fruits, low in saturated fats, and limited to one alcoholic drink per day can lower risk of developing breast cancer. Maintaining an ideal body weight and exercising just 30 minutes five days per week is also beneficial. If you are unsure about the use of hormone replacement therapy, meet with your primary care physician or gynecologist to discuss the pros and cons in your particular situation. For those women with a strong family history of breast cancer, ask your primary care physician about the need to see a breast surgeon or genetics counselor about more aggressive ways to manage potential higher risks.