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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment for women who have reached or passed menopause, which often is referred to as "the change of life." HRT involves taking small doses of one or two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone.

Around age 50, a woman's menstrual periods become less frequent. Menopause is the point at which they stop altogether.

Nice To Know:

  • In all of nature, only the human female experiences menopause - a time when her ovaries have no more eggs (or ova) and she no longer can conceive children spontaneously.
  • The ovaries are the only organs in the human body that are programmed to stop functioning during life. However, just because menopause is a natural event does not mean that it is necessarily good for the individual.

Estrogen and progesterone are produced naturally by the ovaries until the time of menopause, when their production gradually slows down and eventually stops. Both of these hormones are necessary for the proper functioning of a woman's reproductive system. Estrogen has many other important roles in the body as well.

Some undesirable changes can accompany menopause:

  • Menopause can be accompanied by troublesome symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness.
  • Menopause raises a woman's risk for serious health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, as well as bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis and fractures.

Hormone replacement therapy, one of the most commonly prescribed treatments in the United States, is designed to replace the estrogen hormone that the natural aging process takes away.

Researchers developed the concept of hormone replacement therapy in the mid-1960s. HRT has been proven to ease symptoms of menopause and protect against menopause-related health risks.

Recently, however, there has been some concern about whether HRT creates other health risks. This remains an area of considerable debate and ongoing research within the medical community.

Although millions of women take HRT, this may not be the right choice for everyone. Health care professionals advise women to gather as much information as they can and consider the personal benefits and risks.