Menopause & HRT

Its a fact that if a woman lives long enough, she will eventually have to deal with a chapter in her life called menopause aka "The Change". Sounds like something from a horror movie, doesn't it. You may go into it naturally or, like me, it gets pushed along a bit sooner from a hysterectomy. I was already peri-menopausal when I had the procedure four years ago. You don't just wake up one morning and presto, your menopausal. Peri-menopause, the months or years leading up to menopause, can begin as early as your 30s.

In the simplest of terms, menopause marks the end of your childbearing years. Menstruation ceases and your ovaries no longer produce eggs. If this was all it entailed, menopause wouldn't be a bad thing. But the decline in estradiol (E2, the most potent of the three types of estrogen) impacts your entire body. In menopause, your body still produces estrogen, but it is the weakest form, estrone (E1).

Estrogen is stored not only in your ovaries, but also in other cells of the body like your skin, liver and body fat (adipose). It influences both the amount and location of body fat and your muscle mass. It also helps keep your heart and bones healthy.

This is why you may want to consider HRT or hormone replacement therapy. HRT first became available in the 1940s (yes, that long ago!) but wasn't widely prescribed until the 1960s. About the same time birth control was becoming more prevalent. I find it disturbing that HRT is sometimes derided as an unnatural "vanity" treatment. There is nothing vain about protecting your body from age-related problems. And what's vain about not wanting to be a hot, sweaty, emotional mess 24/7. It impacts every woman differently, some having few symptoms, others having severe ones and symptoms can go on for several years.

Having said that, not every woman is a suitable candidate for hormone replacement therapy. HRT has been linked with certain cancer risks so your first stop is to find a doctor who is both knowledgeable and supportive. Your age, family and medical history and personal preferences must all be taken into account to decide if HRT is suitable for you.

My preference was for HRT patches after the hysterectomy and I had a wonderful surgeon who prescribed the brand Estradot in a low dose of 50 ugm (micrograms). The small, flexible patch adheres to the lower abdomen and you change it twice a week.

Its my 61st birthday this month and I think its time to look at how much longer I should continue using HRT. I have a strong family history of osteoporosis and arthritis and a lesser one of heart disease, so it can help protect me from that, though not on its own. Regular exercise is increasingly important as you get older and I recently overhauled my eating habits to help keep my weight in check. 

Do you take HRT or are you considering it? What's your opinion about it? I'd love to hear from you.