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Levbid

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HEART AT THE MENOPAUSE
Increasingly women are told they should take HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) to protect themselves from heart attacks. It is true that as we get older our pattern of heart attack risk changes. Between the ages of thirty-five and forty-four, for instance, we have a six times lower risk of cardiovascular disease than men of the same age. But by the time we are fifty, we have half as much risk of heart disease. It is not until we get to the age of seventy-five that we have an equal risk to men. So what causes us to lose our protection? It has been assumed that because oestrogen levels drop at the menopause it’s this that puts us at a higher risk of heart attacks. Oestrogen is thought to have a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol metabolism, so when levels fall we lose our advantage. This is an incredible assumption to make when there are so many other factors to be taken into account in heart disease. There has been an overwhelming amount of research conducted on men and heart disease but comparatively little is known about heart disease in women. The famous on-going Framingham Study, which started in 1948 and follows the health of men and women in America, recently published in the journal of the American Medical Association the results of a survey looking at the risk factors for heart attacks. Both men and women were included in this survey but the researchers found that so few women suffered heart attacks that their results were not considered significant.
When researchers tried to test out the theory that oestrogen protects against heart disease, by giving men oestrogen to see if it prevented a second heart attack, the study had to be halted because of the dramatic increase in heart attacks amongst the men given the hormone. Perhaps that says it all.
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