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 What Doctors Don't Tell You: HRT: DYING TO STAY YOUNG 
 
What Doctors Don't Tell You © (Volume 1, Issue 9)
If you are an older woman, modern medicine would have you believe you've basically got two choices: take a drug for an indeterminate amount of time, or turn into a humpbacked, sexless, dottering old prune, whose husband is justified in leaving you and whose bones are likely to crumble to dust.

This Hobson's choice all has to do with the falling off in the production of female hormones, oestrogens and progestogens, which affect all systems of the body but particularly regulate the rhythms of, as American writer Joan Didion once starkly put it, "blood and birth and death" the monthly cycles, pregnancy and birth and the cessation of the reproductive capability.With the onset of menopause, the change in the production of these hormones (which will eventually adjust to a lower level) results in all the familiar symptoms of the menopause: hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, cervical, vaginal and uterine atrophy and lack of interest in sex. These hormones also affect the density of bones; after menopause, many women experience a thinning of the bones, called osteoporosis, which can eventually result in the dowager's hump of female old age or even potentially fatal fractures of the spine or hips.

Recently, help has supposedly arrived in the form of hormone replacement therapy, medicine's equivalent of the female fountain of youth. HRT employs artificial hormones, oestrogens and more recently progestogens, the same two hormones used in the birth control pill. The idea is to trick the body into thinking it is still pre-menopausal, in order to postpone, reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the change. It is now available in tablets, a cream or a patch, which gets changed about twice a week, the idea of which is to provide a continual "drip feed" of hormone at the site.

Although enthusiastically taken up in the States (the best estimates are that about 50 per cent of all post-menopausal women are on hormones) British women have been more cautious that is, until recently.

Although a survey last year showed that only 5 per cent of British women are taking hormone therapy, numerous recent campaigns by the Amarant Trust, a pro-HRT non profit organization, spearheaded by MP Teresa Gorman, the emergence of menopause clinics, symposiums on osteoporosis, the drug company's disease of choice at the moment and special booklets prepared by the Independent are increasing uptake over here.

Furthermore, the recent attention paid to osteoporosis has got many women worried about the possibility that they will develop it unless they take the drug as a preventative. There has also been a great deal of attention paid to the idea that HRT lowers your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease.

A recent "educational evening on the menopause", sponsored by GP Dr Michael Harris and his partners in Radstock near Bath, was jam packed with 200 of their female patients who came (a drug company, incidentally, paid the cost of mailing out the invitations) to hear that "osteoporosis could be prevented by HRT," said Harris.

Perhaps most worrying is the zeal being attached to the campaign to get British women to swallow this particular new pill by blaming the British GP, who sensibly is unwilling to prescribe. Although touted as an "independent medical charity aiming to provide a better understanding of the menopause", the Amarant Trust unabashedly proselytizes on behalf of the benefits of HRT.

Started up by the ob/gynae department of Kings College School of Medicine, it also appears to be a charitable means of helping Kings College fund further research into the menopause.

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What Doctors Don't Tell You What Doctors Don’t Tell You is one of the few publications in the world that can justifiably claim to solve people's health problems - and even save lives. Our monthly newsletter gives you the facts you won't......more
 
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