Postmenopausal women face higher risk of CVD, stroke a year after discontinuing hormone therapy

Menopausal women who discontinue hormone therapy are at an increased risk for cardiac and stroke deaths a year after they stop taking estrogen, according to a Finnish study published this month in the journal Menopause.

Hormone therapy (HT) is highly debated in the medical field, but its vascular benefits are hard to ignore. Postmenopausal women starting on a regimen of estrogen therapy have seen quick, positive effects on their cardiovascular health, according to a release from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), and starting HT shortly after the onset of menopause has provided protection against cardiovascular disease.

Previous studies have highlighted the cardiovascular risk factors associated with ending estradiol-based HT, the release stated, but those trials failed to exclude women with documented heart problems. In the new study, 40,000 Finnish women were analyzed, none of whom had a history of cardiac or stroke events.

The study’s authors found that halting HT was directly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and stroke-related deaths one year after ending therapy, especially in women under 60 years old. Older patients didn’t see the same risk, the researchers reported.

“Since the initial Women’s Health Initiative reports, studies have shown that hormone therapy has many benefits and is safer than originally thought. This is especially true for symptomatic menopausal women younger than age 60 and within 10 years of menopause, as these women had fewer heart events and less risk of mortality,” NAMS Executive Director JoAnn Pinkerton said. “This new study suggests that younger women may have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke during the first year of discontinuation. Thus, women and their healthcare providers need to consider the benefits and risks of starting and stopping hormone therapy before making any decisions.”