Nearly five years after government scientists told women that estrogen replacement therapy increased their risks of heart attack and stroke, researchers have largely reversed their position, concluding that the drugs are beneficial for many after all.
Continuing analysis of the original data indicates that the researchers raised a false alarm for most women and that, if women begin taking the hormones shortly after menopause, the drugs do not raise the risk of heart disease and might even lower it.
The latest findings, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, show that taking estrogen for seven years or more after menopause reduces calcification of the arteries -- a key indicator of atherosclerosis -- by as much as 60%. High levels of calcification are generally considered a predictor of increased heart attack risk.
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