Pump Up Your Heart Health with BHRT February 03, 2016
Menopause impacts 25 million women world wide each year, and the World Health Organization estimates 1.2 billion women will be postmenopausal by 2030! You may have heard that after women enter menopause, their risk of heart disease rises sharply. Why? Mainstream medical thinking has pointed to the significant drop in estrogen as a possible cause for an increase in LDL (sometime called the "bad" cholesterol) and drop in HDL (the "good cholesterol). For many years it was believed that estrogen was the key to heart health -- but newer research shows that estrogen is only one part of the picture. Increasing estrogen alone actually works against heart health, but balancing it with progesterone makes a difference! Other hormones also play a role in improving heart health. Testosterone has cardiovascular benefits, including the ability to lower bad cholesterol and reduce platelet "stickiness." Thyroid balance is also strongly correlated with heart health. Hypertension is often found in patients with thyroid deficiency.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America, so finding treatments that can make a difference is critical. In addition to relieving many symptoms of menopausal hormone imbalance, biodientical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is also good for heart health! Research shows that for women on a hormone replacement regimen that includes both estrogen and *bioidentical* progesterone, the use of progesterone actually serves to reduce coronary vascular activity. In other words, bioidentical progesterone has a cardio-protective effect on the body!
One way that progesterone protects the heart is its ability to reduce high blood pressure. During pregnancy, high levels of progesterone protect against the constriction of blood vessels. Hyperactivity of the blood vessels can cause development of strokes and heart attacks. One study directly compared the effect of estrogens + bioidentical progesterone vs. estrogen + synthetic progestins on a marker of heart health in women with established coronary artery disease or previous myocardial infarction (or both). Results showed that the bioidentical progesterone improved patients' blood flow on a treadmill test (measured as "increased exercise time to myocardial ischemia"), whereas the synthetic progestin did not. Another recent study, published in 2013, followed 75 peri- and post-menopausal women who were given bioidentical estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone, at levels adjusted for each participant, over the course of three years. Results showed that, among other benefits, "...cardiovascular biomarkers, inflammatory factors, immune signaling factors, and health outcomes were favorably impacted."
If you are concerned about heart health, remember that maintaining lifelong hormone balance is vital in the prevention of cardiovascular disease!