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Estrogen and cardiovascular disease

Women who enter menopause have to face different changes in their bodies. In order to overcome such changes most of them opt for hormone replacement therapy. This treatment includes prescription estrogen or the combination of estrogen and progestin. Hormone replacement therapy is proven to efficiently deal with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia and other symptoms of menopause.

What about Estrogen and the Cardiovascular System?

Many studies have confirmed that estrogen has major influence on many organs and organ systems in the body including the cardiovascular system.

As far as this system is concerned, estrogen is known to increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), decreases LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and that it may efficiently promote blood clot formation. Similarly, estrogen may have opposite effects regarding blood clot formation under certain circumstances. Additionally, this hormone leads to relaxation and dilation of blood vessels which subsequently increases blood flow. Finally, estrogen is proven to soak up free radicals, major culprits of damage to the arteries as well as other tissues in the body.

Many experts believe that there are several more estrogen effects on the cardiovascular system which are yet to be discovered.

As for women, data regarding the effects of estrogen confirm that this hormone may prevent heart disease. Since heart disease is considered the number one killer among women over age 65, sufficient amounts of estrogen can efficiently postpone the occurrence of heart disease and associated health issues.

Because of all the mentioned, a drop in estrogen, which typically occurs once the woman enters menopause, significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in this period of a woman's life. Lack of estrogen is associated with an increase in LDL cholesterol, drop in HDL cholesterol and progressive atherosclerosis. This may eventually result in a heart attack or stroke. This is the reason why many menopausal women opt for estrogen incorporated in hormone replacement therapy.

The Other Side of the Coin

In spite of being highly efficient when it comes to protection of the cardiovascular system, excess of estrogen or its increased levels may be detrimental in other ways. For instance, hormone replacement therapy has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, blood clots in the legs and lungs. Also, some women have experienced stroke and certain number even ended up with a heart attack.

This drives to conclusion that hormone replacement therapy offers certain benefits but may also cause serious complications. This is the reason why experts finally decided that hormone replacement therapy should not be used for prevention of heart attack or stroke, that this type of treatment must be carefully considered for prevention of osteoporosis, it may be used for a short period of time to relieve menopausal symptoms and that long-term should be avoided because of increased risk for heart attack, stroke and breast cancer.

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