When Should I Start Hormone Replacement Therapy?

When a woman is approaching menopause, how does she know when it is time for hormone therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not a given. Despite the known and possible benefits of HRT, the majority of women don’t take it. While HRT may help prevent osteoporosis and heart disease, and may have numerous other benefits, it appears to increase the risk of breast cancer.

Before reaching menopause, you should learn about the menopause transition and about the risks and benefits of HRT. Then sit down with your doctor and discuss the pros and cons before making your decision.

That decision doesn’t need to be written in stone. You may decide, for instance, to wait until you are 65 before starting HRT, and then take it for 10 years. Or, you may want to start at an earlier age. Or, you could decide to forego HRT, and make other lifestyle changes that will reduce your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. This is a complex issue, and there’s no single answer that applies to every woman.

Meanwhile, the short-term use of hormones is very helpful for relieving menopause symptoms. Not all women have unpleasant symptoms, but those who do sometimes take hormones over the short term, until they are through the transition. HRT seems to be quite safe when taken for fewer than five years.

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