The Menopause Expert - Rebecca Hulem

ELITE – Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol (ELITE)

Do you feel that recent studies have answered all your questions about whether hormone therapy for menopause is right for you? Most women do not.

Questions about the overall effects of hormone therapy and women’s health have not been settled.

Did you know that in a recent study, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), that they discovered estrogen alone tended to reduce heart disease and breast cancer? Did you know that estradiol-the estrogen identical to women’s own estrogen – has been shown in another study to slow hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), the underlying cause of heart disease? Estradiol however was not the estrogen that was used in the WHI study, Premarin was.

How Are Women Affected?

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women. Atherosclerosis, the cause of cardiovascular disease, accounts for more than 485,000 heart attacks each year in American women. Atherosclerosis, accumulation of cholesterol containing plaques in the arteries, is the foremost cause of death in the United States today. It can block circulation of blood to the heart and brain, causing a heart attack, angina (chest pain), and stroke. This condition, known as heart disease, is responsible for 1,000,000 deaths in the United States each year. Before menopause, women have a very low risk of suffering from a cardiovascular event possibly protected by estrogen. More than 90% of deaths due to atherosclerosis occur after menopause when a women’s production of estrogen disappears.

For many decades the medical industry believed that all women should be prescribed estrogen to help reduce the chance of developing atherosclerosis. However, when the WHI study revealed its findings in 2002, due to conflicting information, most women and health care practitioners recommended that women stop taking hormones. The benefits against atherosclerosis did not appear to outweigh other risks. But WHI did not use estradiol as the estrogen of choice, instead they used Premarin which is a synthetic estrogen that is derived from a pregnant mare’s urine and is not bio-identical to a woman’s body.

Many questions have ensued since the release of the WHI study most importantly, was the kind of estrogen that was taken by most women (mainly Premarin) the problem? Until now no one knew for sure.

A New Study is on the Horizon

I have exciting news about a new government (National Institutes of Health) funded study, Early versus Late Intervention Trial with Estradiol (ELITE). This study is being conducted in collaboration with University of Southern California.

What will we learn?

From ELITE, we will learn whether the beneficial protective effect of estradiol (the estrogen that a woman’s body makes) on hardening of the arteries applies to all postmenopausal women or only to those who have recently entered menopause and started hormones early. This study will not use Premarin or Provera which were used in many of the previous trials, particularly WHI, that you may have heard about.

We will also better understand the effects of estradiol on quality of life, memory, and cognitive function.

So if you are suffering from the bothersome symptoms of menopause and question whether it is safe for you to continue or restart hormones, this study may answer these important questions and increase quality of life to millions of postmenopausal women.

My personal and professional opinion is that we will discover that by using Estradiol instead of Premarin, the benefits of taking estrogen will be far greater than was previously found when using a synthetic form of estrogen mainly Premarin.

Stay tuned as “The Menopause Expert” and Menopause Coach, I will inform you of the results as soon as they are available.
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