We are indebted to the French for many things: good food and wine, a respect for homeopathy and spas and a complete indifference to a low fat diet, but now we can add something else to the list. They have been studying the effect of bioidentical hormones by analysing safety data on progesterone, estrogen and the risk of stroke.
Although it is true to say that proportionally more men than women succumb to strokes, it is still a major cause of death for women – in fact more women than men actually die from them. This is borne out by the long-term US study, The Women’s Health Initiative, which found that women who had used PremPro HRT had a massive 41% higher risk of stroke than non-users.
So conventional HRT carries a higher risk for stroke. However, in France, bioidentical hormones are not uncommon. In fact a common form of HRT used there has bioidentical hormones in the form of an oral progesterone and an estradiol patch or gel. Unlike the original study on conventional HRT, this French study is a massive one as it has been following almost 100,000 menopausal women over a period of time.
What they looked at in this study was the was the risk of stroke among women using estrogen in the form of pills, patches and transdermal gel, different kinds of progestins, and progesterone. What they found was that estrogen patches and gels are much safer than estrogen pills, and progesterone is safer than any of the progestins – something that Dr John Lee was saying many years ago. He first made the link between strokes and HRT in his book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause and essentially it confirms what everyone who is interested in using bioidentical hormones already knows, that what it all comes down to is hormone balance, or in fact avoiding oestrogen dominance.
There was another, very small scale study published in the African Journal of Biotechnology on just 15 men and 15 women within 12 hours of their having had a stroke. They looked at levels of the natural hormones made in the body after the study group had suffered a blockage of an artery in the brain. What they measured were levels of estradiol and progesterone and then compared them to a similar healthy group. Although this was a very small-scale study indeed, what they saw was that there were lower progesterone levels in the stroke victims than in the control group and a significantly lower progesterone to estrogen ratio.
So we come full circle to Dr John Lee and the importance of the correct balance of hormones in the body – particularly that of progesterone to estrogen – if women want to lower their risk of having a stroke.