Women who take hormone replacement therapy to cope with the symptoms of the menopause may live longer, a new study has claimed.
Researchers found women using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to relieve the symptoms of menopause faced a lower risk of death and showed lower levels of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the heart's arteries, compared to those not using the therapy.
"Hormone replacement therapy resulted in lower atherosclerosis and improved survival for all age groups and for all levels of coronary calcium," said Yoav Arnson, a scientist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the US.
"With proper screening and proper follow-up, from a cardiovascular standpoint I believe it is beneficial to take hormone replacement therapy," said Arnson.
Health records of more than 4,200 women who received a coronary calcium scan between 1998 and 2012 were analysed.
A coronary calcium scan is a CT scan that measures the amount of calcium in the heart's arteries.
Having higher levels of calcium is a marker for the buildup of plaque, which increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
After accounting for age, coronary calcium score and cardiovascular risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, women using HRT were overall 30 per cent less likely to die than those not on hormone therapy.
As many as 41 per cent of the women reported taking HRT at the time of their calcium scan.
It was found that just over six per cent of the women died during an average follow-up period of eight years.
Those using HRT were significantly older than those not on the therapy, with an average age of 60 years in the non-therapy group compared to an average age of 64 years in the group taking the therapy, researchers said.
Women using HRT were also 20 per cent more likely to have a coronary calcium score of zero (the lowest possible score, indicating a low likelihood of heart attack) and 36 per cent less likely to have a coronary calcium score above 399 (indicative of severe atherosclerosis and high heart attack risk).
"Our results confirm and enhance previous work in terms of showing lower atherosclerosis. In addition, we've shown very clear survival benefits of using hormone replacement therapy," Arnson added.