In yet another blow for women hoping to improve their quality of life after menopause, researchers have found that a popular hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has no effect on reducing hot flashes and night sweats. The combination of estrogen and progestin that was studied also failed to improve other symptoms, such as general health, vitality, mental health, depression and sexual satisfaction. In fact, the only positive effects the HRT appeared to have were on sleep disturbance, physical functioning and bodily pain. However, even these few benefits were deemed to be “not clinically meaningful” by the study’s researchers.
The researchers tracked 16,608 participants (aged 50 to 79) who are part of the ongoing Women’s Health Initiative (WHI); the study criteria were that the women be postmenopausal with an intact uterus. Participants were randomly assigned to a regimen of estrogen with progestin (2.5 milligrams) or given a placebo. Quality-of-life measures were taken at baseline, 1 year and 3 years. At the end of the 3-year study period, the HRT regimen offered “no significant benefits in terms of any of the quality-of-life measures,” according to the study authors.
In an interview with the online HealthCentral newsletter, the study’s lead author, Jennifer Hays, PhD, offered this advice to women who want to lessen postmenopausal symptoms that negatively affect their quality of life: “Keeping yourself active physically and mentally is probably the most powerful treatment that you can find for quality-of-life improvements, and it doesn’t raise risk of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer,” Hays advised.
This latest study on quality-of-life measures comes on the heels of an HRT study recently halted after researchers determined that women taking the combination of estrogen and progestin were at heightened risk for heart attacks, stroke and breast cancer.
To underscore the importance of the current study’s findings, the New England Journal of Medicine released the results on its Web site prior to planned publication, to alert women of the “potential therapeutic implications” of taking HRT. The formal study is slated to appear in the journal’s May 8 issue.