Taking HRT is always going to be a personal choice, and to make that choice access to information is essential. There have been many studies over the years and the latest one ironically echoes the original research presented on HRT many years ago. That too was a very small scale study, indeed so small it was criticised by peer reviewers when presented.
The latest study in Sweden from Uppsala University claims that women taking HRT after the menopause stay stronger and have significantly improved muscle function. Interestingly it seems that cells were arranged differently in muscle fibres in post-menopausal women taking HRT compared with those who did not and yes that is something to explore. However, this was study o 12 women, of whom only 6 were actually on HRT, so statistically this is tiny.
What to think about
With an estimated one million women in the UK being prescribed HRT in their 50s the general reason is to replace oestrogen and help with symptoms such as hot flushes and mood changes. It is also claimed to slow bone loss and increase bone density, and reverse declining levels of skin collagen, which is responsible for the stretch in skin and muscle.
This latest addition to the HRT benefits means that because HRT reduces the drop in muscle mass and strength in post-menopausal women it will improve the ability to jump higher and walk faster than those not taking drugs. Well yes, but is that really something that can’t be gained in other ways from regular exercise an practices such as yoga and tai chi?
Researchers observed six pairs of post-menopausal identical twins – of whom only one of each pair was receiving HRT.
My main problem with this is the very tiny sample they are basing it on, and whether the benefit outweighs what are genuine health risks associated with HRT. Many women are happy on HRT, but it is their doctors who are taking them off it because they are very aware of those risks, so is the ability to jump higher really worthwhile in the context of the issues with heart disease and cancer?
The very original research on HRT was based on a tiny sample and it has been on womens bodies over the years since that have shown the drawbacks and potential hazards. It is in the nature of researchers to want to research but I can’t help feeling that turning their attention to bioidentical hormones would be a better use of their time and resources. Thousands and thousands of women worldwide successfully use bioidentical hormones to hep with symptoms from PMS to post menopause and in this case there is definitely strength in numbers.