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Hormones No Cure-All for Older Women

Hormones No Cure-All for Older Women

Thursday, April 27th 2006

OESTROGEN pills have little effect on older women's quality of life, says fresh evidence from a landmark study that deals another blow to the idea that most women need the hormones to feel better after menopause.

More than 10,000 women with an average age of 63 were asked about their general health, mental, physical and social functioning, energy levels and emotional health before and a year after they stated taking either oestrogen or dummy pills.

Some scores dipped and others increased slightly, but there was little overall difference between the groups, which each included more than 5000 women.

But some doctors have cautioned about applying the study's findings to younger women.

In the study, women taking oestrogen reported slightly fewer sleep problems but slightly worse social functioning than those on dummy pills. The differences were minimal.

Overall quality-of-life scores were high for both groups.

Participants were part of the United States Government's Women's Health Initiative, which did a long-running study on the risks and benefits of hormones.

Use plummeted after results in 2002 linked oestrogen-progestin pills sold as Prempro with an increased risk for heart attacks, breast cancer and strokes in post menopausal women.

Later results showed oestrogen-only pills, sold as Premarin, slightly increased older women's risk of a stroke and possibly dementia.

The new result for oestrogen-only pills echo previous data from the same study showing oestrogen-progestin had little effect on older women's overall well-being and quality of life.

The 10,739 women in the latest study, which appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine this week, had all had hysterectomies.

In both groups, fewer than 3 per cent reported poor quality of life and scores for 40 per cent were in the excellent range after a year.

Several doctors said the conclusions could not be generalized to apply to younger women.

Dr Julia Johnson, vice-chairwomen of gynaecology at the University of Vermont, noted that the women were about 10 years past the age when troublesome symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats - which can affect quality of life - were most likely to occur.

"Using this study to look at quality of life is sort of like comparing apples and oranges," said Dr Johnson, who was not involved in the study.

Dr Ginger Constantine of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which makes Prempro and Premarin, said hormone pills worked for hot flushes and similar problems and that most users took the pills for those symptoms. University of Nevada researcher Robert Brunner, the study's lead author, said oestrogen pills reduced troublesome hot flushes in a subgroup of younger study participants but these women still did not report a better quality of life than placebo users.

"Yes, it's improving some symptoms, but it's also producing some side-effects and that combination ends up resulting in no change" in quality of life, Dr Brunner said.

Dr Lisa Lau, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Chicago's Rush University Medical Centre who was not involved in the study, said it bolstered present thinking "that hormone replacement therapy needs to be individual".

"It's not a vitamin that needs to be added to everybody's regime, " she said.

"It certainly will not make you feel like you're 20 years old or give you a great sex life".

Source, New Zealand Herald, Saturday 1 October 2005

Footnote from Ideal Health:

The following products are all useful for older people:

50+ Protein, Fibre, Joint & Bones - Vanilla
AntiOx Excel
Enzo Brain Recovery Programme
Cod Liver Oil - Cold Pressed
Eye Focus (Lutein)
Eye Health Pack
Hi-Strength Liquid Fish Oil
Glucosamine 1-A-Day
Premium Vision Eyecare
Self Test Female Hormone Test Kit
Self Test Male Hormone Test Kit
Super Collagen+C
New Zealand Deer Velvet

Related health information can be found here:

Antibiotic Use
Arthritis Program
Calcium Deficiency
DIM Plus to assist in cancer prevention
Eye Health
Herbal phytoestrogens and menopause
Mineral Power
Protein - a macronutrient so often overlooked
Water, the elixir of life

Related articles can be found here:

Estrogen-Progestin Associated With Increased Risk of Stroke and Dementia
Looking To The 50s For The Good Oil
Low Bone Mineral Density Linked to Dementia in Women
Silica - Anti Aging Mineral
Slow Bone Loss with Calcium
Soy Protein With Isoflavones Has Favorable Effect on Lipids in Postmenopausal Women

If you need help or advice, you are welcome to email our naturopathic team with your health question.

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered. The information is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide medical advice to you. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.


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