The Most Significant Health Advice All Women 45+ MUST Hear!

The Study That Made Estrogen Evil

pillsThe surgeon who delivered my daughter performed the operation, and he prescribed that I take an estrogen pill, called Premarin, practically the minute I came out of my anesthetic stupor. I didn’t ask why. I just took it. Every single day, for 18 years, until 2009. But in 2002, a study came out from the Women’s Health Initiative that cast estrogen therapy as a villain.divider

It reported that estrogen therapy increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer, having a stroke or heart attack, and developing blood clots. That scared me, so of course I asked my doctor what to do.

armAnd he assured me, year in and year out, that I should continue the estrogen, that it would not cause any of the issues described in the WHI study. But in January 2009, when I was 62, I decided to stop taking my estrogen pills, because the WHI study was consistently in the news over the years.  

I had one or two hot flashes, post estrogen, but they were the outward symptoms. The inside symptoms didn’t start rearing their ugly heads until around 2012. My LDL (bad) cholesterol levels crept up every year (they had always been perfect).  My bones lost more density every year. My skin sagged over night.

dividerBy this time, my wonderful gynecologist and  internist both had died, and when I asked my new much-younger internist what the heck was going on, she told me I should lose weight, eat more calcium, and exercise. She also sent me to a cardiologist and an endocrinologist to deal with my “osteopenia” and high LDL levels. These two doctors had the answers in a snap: Statin drugs to lower the LDL and bisphosphonates to halt the bone loss. Many boomer women I knew were on these drugs, so I obediently took them.

I did not like what I read on the internet, however, about statins and phosphonates. Statins may improve your cholesterol numbers but they increase your risk of developing dementia and diabetes (great!) and bisphosphonates could cause your jaw to lock and further disintegration of your bones (great!)

My AHA Moment

Fortunately, I was interviewing some really smart doctors for FabOverFifty by this time, and started working with a pharmaceutical company that produces an estrogen pill  to relieve vaginal atrophy. Putting 2+2 together, I discovered that my decision to stop taking estrogen was a mistake.  A BIG, BIG MISTAKE. The WHI even admitted it made a big, big mistake,  because the participants in its study were considerably older than typical women going through menopause, namely an average age of 63, with 20 percent of them starting estrogen between 70 and 79! Obviously, they were many years postmenopausal since the average age at menopause is 51 in the United States. And, it is likely that many of the older women entering the study had already developed some degree of damage to their blood vessels. The study did find that the participants on estrogen only had a decrease in diagnoses of breast cancer.

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10 Responses to “The Most Significant Health Advice All Women 45+ MUST Hear!”

  1. AnneBayer says:

    I was taking estrogen as HRT after a complete hysterectomy in my early 40s. With the exception of about a 2-year period in the early 2000s (my doctor referenced the study you mentioned and immediately took me off of estrogen. I suffered horribly with hot flashes and night sweats and begged him to put me back on and he finally agreed.) Last year, at age 55, following minor foot surgery, I had a DVT in the calf of the same leg as the foot surgery and my doctor immediately took me off of estrogen, saying it probably was the culprit. After months of blood testing and scans, I’m permanently on the blood thinner, Xarelto because all of the resting found a specific mutation in my DNA that says I’m prone to clots. My (new) doctor says that because of that, taking estrogen is never going to be possible. Now, after reading your article, I’m worried… I know she won’t put me back on estrogen.

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    • geribrin says:

      Hi Anne,
      If tests showed that you’re prone to clots, I’m going to guess that estrogen isn’t a good idea. But don’t be worried, please. Maybe bio-identical hormone therapy would be possible. Ask your doc. And, if you need the name of someone who specializes in menopausal and post-menopausal women, let me know and I’ll get the name of an expert in your area. Best, Geri

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  2. Dandi says:

    I’m 53 and i’m in Menopause….do I just need to ask my doctor to give me the the low dose patch??

    REPLY
    • geribrin says:

      Hi Dandi,

      If your doctor isn’t well educated in menopausal women, he or she probably won’t have much of a clue what to recommend, despite the fact he or she is an OBGYN.

      You should speak to a doctor whose specialty is menopausal and post- menopausal women. There aren’t many of them now, but their numbers are growing. Let me know where you live and I can get a recommendation for you in your area, if there is a specialist there.

      Fondly, Geri

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      • Dandi says:

        Hello! and thank you so much for responding. 🙂 I live near Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Thank you again. Regards! Teri (Dandi)

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        • geribrin says:

          Hi Teri,

          I will get back to you, hopefully with a name of an expert in your area.

          Best,
          Geri

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  3. Shelley O'Hara Plunkett says:

    While I agree that estrogen is vital, it’s not the only hormone that we need. Estrogen should always be balanced with the other necessary hormones that naturally occur in our systems when we are younger. I am on a regimen of Tri-est, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA all delivered in a sublingual troche’ that I put under my tongue at bedtime. This is bio-identical hormone therapy which my doctor believes to be superior to typical estrogen replacement therapy in that it is not “engineered” to be slightly different than my own hormones for the sake of a drug company’s profits. It is exactly the same in molecular structure to my own hormones and because he works with compounding pharmacies, he can design a hormone mix that is exactly right for me. We have tweaked mine a bit over the last year until we have hit on the right combination. For example, at one point my estradiol was too high and was causing sexual problems. Sexual lubrication had become so profuse that neither I nor my husband could feel anything. It was frustrating (and messy). My doctor cut the estradiol in half and the problem was solved. Most OB/GYNs will say that bio-identical hormone therapy isn’t effective or that it doesn’t really differ that much from pharmaceutical hormone therapy. I disagree. Hormones from pregnant horses are not as safe as hormones made from plant compounds. Humans are meant to consume plants, not horse urine. Not only that, I can get a mixture of hormones just right for me. You cannot get that with a pharmaceutical dose. I turn 60 this year. I feel wonderful. I run a mile every day and Zumba twice a week. My bloodwork is that of a 30 year old and my blood pressure still runs 117/65. The only “medication” I take is my hormones. Add to that that I am 40 lbs overweight. The reason my health is what it is is because I’ve taken care of my gut health for the last 20 years and I consider that to be the biggest piece of my health story. The microbiome in your gut is the key to your health, mentally and physically. It breaks my heart to see so many people taking medications and suffering from heartburn, acid reflux, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, severe menopausal symptoms, etc. when the onset and severity of these problems depends on how healthy our gut bacteria and enzymes are. This is being backed up by scientific research and thankfully, is finally starting to come to light. I am just thankful that I found out about it two decades ago.

    REPLY
    • Geri Brin says:

      Thank you, Shelley, for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. Doctors do debate about “bio-identical” v. non bio-identical hormones, so I believe each of us has to do what we think best for our body and work with a doctor we respect. Continued good heath and happiness to you. Best, Geri

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    • Laura Gannon says:

      Thank you so much for your input. I read every word. It was very helpful. And thank you Geri also. Your article is so appreciated .

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      • Geri Brin says:

        Hi Laura,

        You are welcome!

        Best,
        Geri

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