Experts are describing as a " U-turn of dramatic proportions", a study finding which says that hormone replacement therapy in women can in fact prevent them from the risks of heart disease.
The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that hormone replacement therapy or HRT, taken by women in their 50's do not put such women at higher risks of heart attacks and other such conditions.
This finding has profound effect as a similar study in 2002, changed the face of treatment in postmenopausal women. That finding which found that HRT increased the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes, resulted in the prescription time of the drug being shortened and the altogether stoppage of the drug, by British doctors in women at risk from osteoporosis.
The report, called The Women's Health Initiative Study, discovered that any additional risks of HRT might apply only to older women. It concludes: "Women who initiated hormone therapy closer to menopause tended to have reduced coronary heart disease risk compared with the increase in coronary heart disease risk among women more distant from menopause."
However, it did add that the trend "did not meet our criterion for statistical significance".
According to HRT expert Dr. John Stevenson, from London's Royal Brompton Hospital, the findings are a "U-turn of dramatic proportions".
Stevenson said: "These conclusions are at complete variance with the widely-publicized 2002 results on which our guidance on prescribing is based. We are astonished that a study which made such a claim for the dangers of HRT is now showing just the opposite."
Experts say that for women, age becomes a risk factor for heart disease at 55. After menopause, women are more apt to get heart disease, in part because their body's production of estrogen drops. Women who have gone through early menopause, either naturally or because they have had a hysterectomy, are twice as likely to develop heart disease as women of the same age who have not yet gone through menopause. Another reason for the increasing risk is that middle age is a time when women tend to develop other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes and increased blood pressure.