Hormone replacement therapy could be the answer to prevent heart disease in women after menopause, says Prof Jay Kaplan, from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina.
Taking the Pill and even HRT is generally frowned upon since it substantially increases the risk of developing breast cancer, but this new research shows that both these options could ward off heart disease in women. It is a generally known fact that women are able to deal better with heart disease prior to menopause courtesy the female sex hormone, estrogen. However, dipping oestrogen levels after menopause mean that women are at a higher risk of contracting cardiovascular disease.
In the current study, Prof Kaplan observed female monkeys in the perimenopausal period and noted that there is a gradual decline in oestrogen levels during this period. Perimenopause is the period about 5-10 years before menopause actually sets in.
"Waiting until the menopause is not the time to start thinking about prevention. Perimenopause is a time of increased vulnerability to chronic disease. Our monkey studies showed that a deficiency of oestrogen before menopause places these females on a high-risk trajectory," said Prof Kaplan. "Primary prevention of heart disease should start pre-menopausally." He was addressing the delegates of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in Boston.
The current study demonstrated that if the monkeys were treated with oestrogen before menopause, there was a substantial reduction in fatty deposits in arteries. This is the main cause for heart disease. Prof Kaplan was of the opinion that oral contraceptive pills were to be recommended since animal research demonstrated the wisdom of stocking up on oestrogen before menopause.