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Hormone replacement therapy linked to high blood pressure

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday Sept 15, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Clinical trials have already demonstrated that women using hormone replacement therapy are at high risk for breast cancer and heart disease, a finding that forced trials were prematurely terminated.   Now a new Australian study showed that using menopausal hormone therapy can also increase high blood pressure or hypertension.

Menopausal hormone therapy and hormone replacement therapy are the same treatment that is often times used to relieve symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats and migraine headaches associated with menopause.   The therapy uses often naturally identical female hormones. They are powerful, but risky.

The link of high blood pressure with hormone therapy discovered by Christine L. Chiu of University of Western Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia and colleagues may not be surprising to those who have known the link between use of hormone replacement therapy and elevated risk for heart disease and cancer. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease.

The safety of the menopausal hormone therapy remains controversial.  According to the researchers, some studies advocated use of menopausal hormone therapy to reduce cardiovascular disease while others ended up only finding that such a treatment would increase risk of the disease.  The current study was intended to determine whether using menopausal hormone therapy would increase risk of high blood pressure.

The study looked at 43,405 postmenopausal Australian women aged 45 or older who reported being postmenopausal, having an intact uterus (meaning they were producing hormones normally), and having not been diagnosed with high blood pressure prior to menopause.

Women who used menopausal hormone therapy were found at higher odds of having  high blood pressure.  Of women younger than 61, those who used menopausal hormone therapy were found at 58 or 59 percent higher risk for high blood pressure, compared with those who did not use the therapy. The increase in the risk was as much in those aged 62 to 70.

Additionally, increased duration of hormone use was correlated with higher odds of having high blood pressure, but hormone therapy had less impact on high blood pressure in older women.

The researchers concluded "Menopausal hormone therapy use is associated with significantly higher odds of having high blood pressure, and the odds increase with increased duration of use. High blood pressure should be conveyed as a health risk for people considering MHT (menopausal hormone therapy) use."

It should be noted that taking birth control pills which are made of female hormones can also increase odds of high blood pressure and so do some medicines like asthma medicines (corticosteroids). 

High blood pressure is a serious medical condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke kidney failure, and other health problems, according to the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

High blood pressure is not a terminal disease and it can be treated relatively easily following a modified lifestyle including a healthy diet.   For instance, protein supplements have been found associated with lower risk of high blood pressure.  Green tea, vitamin C, blue berries, vitamin D, DASH diet, garlic, and garden peas among other things may also help high blood pressure.

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