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Early HRT Protects a Woman's Heart
Date:11/6/2007

wareness of this fact seems to lag behind concern about breast cancer. More research, however, is focusing on women and heart disease and on gender gaps in treatment of the disease.

The HRT findings come from the WISE (Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation) study, which included women with some coronary artery disease. While women who started HRT before the age of 45 saw a protective effect, those who started replacement therapy later saw more disease. The study was sponsored by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The findings were not consistent with those of the Women's Health Initiative, leading NHLBI cardiologist and study co-author Dr. George Sopko to say, "I'm somewhat surprised by that. In our cohort, many -- if not most -- of these women had uninterrupted hormonal status. There was not a gap between the decline of reproductive hormone levels and the start of replacement therapy, and maybe that is one of the key elements."

Oral contraceptives are one of the most frequently used drugs in the world with 100 million women taking them, yet there is not nearly as much heart research into contraceptives as there is into HRT.

This Belgian study found a 20 percent to 30 percent increased prevalence of plaque in the carotid and femoral arteries for every 10 years of exposure to oral contraceptives.

Does this mean women should be wary of taking the pill?

"That is a question for a philosopher, not a physician," said study lead author Dr. Ernst Rietzschel, of Ghent University's department of cardiovascular disease and public health. "We don't prescribe oral contraceptives so women will live longer. Women take them, because they want contraceptives, and contraceptives have been an enormous force for a lot of women to fulfill their rightful role in society. I believe the options should stay open, maybe not for very long time frames."

Two additional studies presented Tuesday
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