Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the practice of treating the symptoms of aging by replacing the hormones that your body stops producing or significantly reduces the production of as you age, or as a result of a medical procedure (such as a full hysterectomy). In women, this commonly includes the replacement of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Over 50 years ago doctors began prescribing synthetic estrogen and progesterone to women to help with the troublesome and often debilitating symptoms of menopause: hot flashes, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, unable to lose weight, irritability and mood swings, loss of sexual desire, etc. For many women this treatment was life changing and significantly improved their quality of life during menopause.
Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women
In 2002 a study called the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) caused a wave of panic throughout the medical community and among women worldwide. Many doctors took the incomplete and misleading information from the media to heart – that the study indicated estrogen replacement therapy caused significant increases in strokes, heart disease, blood clots and certain cancers. This is a simplified and inaccurate description of the facts of the study. Here are the facts: the study indicated that estrogen therapy (both synthetic and bio-identical) when coupled with synthetic progestin caused the increases in heart issues, strokes and cancer. There was no indication of any increases in these health concerns with estrogen alone. It was clear that the synthetic progestin, a chemical compound that does not match the body’s naturally occurring progesterone, was the possible culprit. It is also important to note that the mean age of the women in the study was 63.3 years old, nearly 50% were smokers, and over 70% were considered overweight to obese – so, pointing to HRT as the sole cause of the increases in serious health issues is questionable at best.
Despite the widespread availability of the study and the details showing the true results, many doctors and women still believe today that any hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is inherently more dangerous than the benefits it may hold. However, HRT using bioidentical (non-synthetic) hormones has been proven through 30 years of studies to be a safe, effective, and life-changing solution for many women to achieve a high level of health and vitality throughout their later lives.
Why Do Women Chose Hormone Replacement Therapy
So, why do women chose hormone replacement therapy? Hormone replacement therapy using bio-identical hormones (naturally occurring sources that match the structure of the hormones your body creates itself) has been proven to be a safe option. hormone replacement therapy relieves a host of the symptoms of aging: mental fogginess, forgetfulness, depression, mood changes, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, decreased sexual desire, inability to climax, pain from sexual activity, dry eyes and skin, problems losing weight, loss of lean muscle, osteoporosis, headaches, cramps, breakthrough bleeding, endometriosis, urinary incontinence and more.
But just as exciting for women is the long-term health benefits that occur when their hormones are optimized, including: reduced risk of heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Hormone replacement therapy has also been found in women to increase bone density, increase muscle mass, improve bladder incontinence, improve overall mood and enhance feelings of wellbeing and increase libido/sexual desire.
With any physician-supervised therapy, each individual’s body may react differently. When a patient experiences a negative side effect of their Hormone replacement therapy, it can normally be relieved with an adjustment in dosage of one or more of their hormone prescriptions. The most common side effects (approximately 6% of patients) associated with HRT include: acne or breakouts, oily skin, headache, aggressiveness, greasy hair, increases in facial hair or body hair growth, body odor, fluid retention and body fat.
Rare but serious side effects may occur with Hormone replacement therapy. These are most commonly associated with a counter-reaction from another medication or as a result of a pre-existing condition. In most cases, an adjustment in dosage is recommended.
While your primary practitioner or OB/GYN may be willing to prescribe estrogen, etc. to help relieve your current symptoms, a Hormone Replacement Specialist is going to take a different approach. For example, because Dr. Harry Collins of Savannah Age Management Medicine has completed a rigorous certification process that focuses on longevity, health and vitality, he not only looks at your current symptoms but your overall health and what you want to achieve long-term. He follows a therapy of Hormone Optimization, bringing your hormones back to where they were in your twenties, at the height of your physical health. He evaluates not only your current levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, but DHEA, Vitamin D, Human Growth Hormone levels, and your thyroid. Along with a personalized therapy plan, he recommends a variety of supplements known to enhance your body’s ability to heal and improve overall functions. Dr. Collins gives extended one-on-one time to each patient to review their current levels as determined by blood work, but to also listen (“How are YOU feeling?”) He provides access to a certified exercise and nutrition counselor to all of his patients as part of their program.
HRT, supplements, nutrition and exercise are the 4 elements he recommends to build a body that you will enjoy being in and to experience vitality all the days of your life.