Hormone replacement therapy for primary and secondary prevention of heart disease
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women. In pooled analysis, observational studies have shown a 50% reduction in death and myocardial infarction among users of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. The first randomized trial of HRT for secondary prevention of heart disease found no benefit to therapy (Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study [HERS]). Even after 6–8 years of follow-up, there was still no cardiovascular benefit from the use of HRT (HERS II). HRT was associated with a 50% increased risk of heart attacks within the first year as well as an increased risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) (relative risk [RR] 2.89) and gallbladder disease (RR 1.38). The Estrogen Replacement and Atherosclerosis trial found no evidence that HRT slowed the progression of subclinical angiographic disease either. This was despite a favorable effect on high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein. The first randomized trial of HRT for the primary prevention of heart disease found no overall benefit (Women’s Health Initiative). The combination of estrogen and progestin resulted in a 29% increase in heart attacks, 41% increase in stroke, a doubling of thrombotic events (DVT and PE), as well as a 26% increase in breast cancer. The risk for thrombotic events was greatest in the first year whereas the risk of breast cancer increased progressively with duration of therapy. HRT is no longer recommended for the primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease or stroke. It may still be considered for short-term relief of menopausal symptoms in women without high-risk conditions, but alternatives exist.
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