Estrogen And Progesterone -- The Female Hormones
Although women don't hit menopause until the early fifties, estrogen and progesterone begin to decline in their early thirties, dropping their fertility. By their early forties this decline is noticeable and called the perimenopause. As many women (and their men) know, these hormone fluctations can upset their emotional balance.
Estrogen is also the hormone doctors feel no hesitation in prescribing. In fact, it's the most often prescribed drug in the United States. About 13 million American women use estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) to help them through menopause. That's 20% of women in or post menopause. No doubt many more women around the world are taking it also.
However, there is controversy over its use. Believers say that this hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (giving women progesterone along with estrogen) helps reduce the symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and aging skin). They also claim it reduce women's risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, colon cancer and mental deterioration.
(Some researchers believe that women's high level of estrogen protects them from heart attacks until menopause. After that, the rate of heart attacks in women grows to equal that of men.)
Others say that HRT puts women at greater risk of uterine, breast and ovarian cancers. Proper diet, rest and exercise would help women through menopause in a much more effective as well as natural way. And they can also use estrogen creams with natural sources of progesterone such as wild Mexican yam. However, let's face, many aging women are not going to change their diets and take up exercise programs even when they understand they should.)
Some studies do conclude that HRT succeeds in reducing death rates among older women. HRT users had a 46% lower death rate. They appear to have a significantly lower rate of heart disease and strokes. They do have a slightly higher rate of breast cancer, but a corresponding lower rate of lung cancer.
In recent years a new type of estrogen drug is available, called selective estrogen-receptor modulators (SERMS). They deliver estrogen to the woman's heart and bones but not breasts and uterus. Indications are they do help aging women obtain the health benefits of estrogen without the risks.
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