Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one of the most commonly prescribed hormone treatments in the United States. Recently, concerns whether HRT creates other health risks have arisen. In this recent interview with A Gathering of Experts, pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm, advised women to gather as much information about HRT as they can, and consider the personal benefits and risks.
A Gathering of Experts: Thank you for joining us today, Marla Ahlgrimm.
Marla Ahlgrimm: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
A Gathering of Experts: Can you explain what HRT is and what is it for?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) describes hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone that are taken daily to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but also to protect against health risks such as osteoporosis.
A Gathering of Experts: How is HRT taken?
Marla Ahlgrimm: HRT is available as oral tablets, capsules or transdermal skin patches and creams.
A Gathering of Experts: Can the way a woman takes HRT make a difference in whether she continues to take the medication?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes. Swallowing a pill every day can have a surprisingly negative impact on women. The same can be true of an estrogen patch. For some women this type of medication can be a “constant reminder of menopause.”
A Gathering of Experts: In your experience, Marla Ahlgrimm, how quickly does the body adjust to HRT?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Symptoms may ebb and flow for three to six months whenever any new HRT medication is initiated. Sometimes HRT will improve hot flashes initially, followed by a period where they increase during the second or third week of treatment. By the fourth week, the body will adjust and the women will feel much better.
A Gathering of Experts: Are any tests required before HRT is started?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes. A general medical checkup is recommended to determine any risk factors. A routine exam should include a check of blood pressure, pelvis, breasts, and abdomen.
A Gathering of Experts: Why do some women discontinue HRT?
Marla Ahlgrimm: In many cases it’s because they have not been given adequate information about what medication they are taking, why they are taking it, and what to expect. For example, HRT can cause breast tenderness and a woman may associate that tenderness with cancer and stop taking the medication. The treatment fails to meet the patients’ expectations and they may simply stop.
A Gathering of Experts: How can a woman achieve a successful HRT?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Women as well as providers need to realize that there is no “one-size-fits-all” HRT regimen. Arriving at the right medication, dosage, and delivery form sometimes takes some adjustment. It is important that women keep in close touch with their providers to discuss what they are experiencing with HRT.
A Gathering of Experts: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, today. You have been very informative.
Marla Ahlgrimm: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you.
According to pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm, the steps toward arriving at an HRT regimen that is well-tolerated, achieves the desired outcomes, and that a woman feels comfortable taking are not different from the steps taken to initiate any form of drug therapy. Concludes Marla Ahlgrimm, “What works best is an alliance between health care providers and patients, not a hierarchy where one tells the other what to do.”
Marla Ahlgrimm is the founder of Women’s Health America, Inc., an organization that provides individualized hormonal medications and helpful health information. As a published co-author and columnist, Marla Ahlgrimm directs her main focus on natural hormone therapy. Marla Ahlgrimm has received numerous awards and is recognized as Distinguished Alumni by her alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. To contact Marla Ahlgrimm, visit marlaahlgrimm.com.