Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one cause of death and morbidity worldwide, and while overall CVD incidence rates declined in both genders between 1999 and 2007, age-specific data suggest that coronary risk factors in women are on the rise. While early observational data favored menopausal hormone therapy's (MHT's) role in primary CVD prevention, the initial interventional study data from the WHI did not. Further detailed analyses of both observational and interventional data have pointed to the possibility that MHT may play a role in primary CVD prevention if initiated within 10 years of menopause and less than 60 years of age (the timing hypothesis). Unanswered questions remain regarding the optimal route and dosage of estrogen in MHT. Data so far, favor transdermal estradiol over conventional-dose CEE with respect to CVD risk and oral estradiol over conventional-dose CEE with respect to stroke risk. Low-dose oral CEE may similarly have benefit over conventional-dose oral CEE for some CVD events. In addition, the transdermal route of delivery may avoid the excess risk of certain CVD events associated with MHT and lower doses of estrogen may have fewer adverse effects than the doses previously tested in WHI. Because questions regarding benefits versus risks remain, MHT is yet to be recommended for CVD prevention. However, it is indicated for menopausal symptom management in women within 10 years of menopause and under the age of 60 years, in whom it does not appear to carry increased cardiovascular risk. Additional research is ongoing and needed to confirm or refute the comparative safety of the various MHT options.
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