Women who undergo hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes may also get stronger bones as well, a new study finds.
Previous studies have revealed the positive impact of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on bone mineral density.
This new study is the first to show that this type of hormone replacement can also improve bone mass and structure, and that the bone health benefits persist for at least two years after women stop treatment.
Menopause, which usually occurs when a woman is in her 40s or 50s, significantly speeds bone loss, and can contribute to osteoporosis, a progressive condition in which bones become structurally weak and are more likely to fracture or break.
Swiss researchers looked at 1,279 women ages 50 to 80 residing in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland. The participants were divided into three categories: 22 percent were undergoing HRT during the study, 30 percent were past users and 48 percent of women had never used hormone therapy.
To measure whether MHT influenced bone health, researchers used dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans of the participants’ lumbar spine, femoral neck and hip to assess bone mineral density.
Based on the scan results, the women were assigned a Trabecular Bone Score assessing the quality of their underlying bone structure. This score can be used to predict fracture risk in postmenopausal women.
Other variables included the history of fractures in participants, and the use of supplements such as current or past use of calcium and/or vitamin D. Blood test results for vitamin D levels from 1,204 out of the 1,279 participants were also factored into the study.
The researchers found higher Trabecular Bone Scores in current HRT users compared to past users or women who had never used hormonal therapy.
All bone mass density values were significantly higher in current users compared to past users or participants who had never used hormone therapy.
Past users of the therapy exhibited higher bone mass density and a trend for higher bone microarchitecture values compared to women who had never used hormone therapy.
The researchers note that the duration of hormone therapy had no effect on bone health.
“Women at menopause should take note of this study, because its results can help optimize the use of menopausal hormone treatment in women at risk of osteoporosis,” says lead Dr. Georgios Papadakis of the study, which appears in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
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