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Dear Betty,
I’ve probably got a number of years until I need to consider postmenopausal hormone replacement, but with all the controversy lately about hormone pills, will hormone replacement still be available when or if I need it? What are the alternatives?
Y.S. — Minneapolis

Many women who considered hormone replacement their fountain of youth were dismayed to learn not only that it didn’t provide all the health benefits attributed to it but also that it might put them more at risk for certain illnesses.

The big announcement came this past summer when part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study was halted early after the women receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) turned out to be at greater risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease. The presumed benefit of heart protection proved just the opposite, while other risks became even clearer. Benefits were seen in reduced risk of hip fractures (related to osteoporosis) and colon cancer, but the overall risks far outweighed the possible benefits.

Some women were upset that they might lose the benefits of the estrogen — relief from hot flashes, protection from osteoporosis, healthier skin, even better mental functioning as they age. Others worry that they won’t get the protection from heart disease that they were promised as the rationale for taking the prescription medication in the first place.

Those of us who enjoy the bodybuilding lifestyle, however, can take comfort in the knowledge that the exercise and nutrition practices we follow so conscientiously help protect from many of the debilities and ailments that HRT was purported to combat. Two big ones are heart disease and osteoporosis.

Our lifestyle battles both. Regular exercise, healthy nutrition and avoiding excess bodyfat go far to keep our cardiovascular systems healthy. And the resistance exercise that separates us from marathoners and aerobics divas gives us a major advantage — bone density. We’ve known for a long time that exercise correlates with bone density, and a recent study made the value of bodybuilding even clearer: Muscle mass is directly related to bone density. Pumping iron does build and protect your bones, without the risks of HRT.

Betty Weider

Originaly published in Muscle and Fitness

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