Early, surgical or natural menopause all lead to the same end result - menopause. During the first years of menopause many women choose hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease the symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness, but is HRT safe for long-term use? Researchers and doctors have flip-flopped on this issue for several years, but the US Preventive Services Task Force has issued a statement that may change how older women face menopause. 

What is HRT?HRT
HRT is nothing more than replacement reproductive hormones. The hormones come from a variety of sources, including the urine of pregnant horses. The body recognizes the medication and symptoms of menopause ease up or stop all together during treatment, for some women. 

Are Older Women the Only Women at Risk?
No. While the report focused on older women taking long-term HRT, there are plenty of young women who've undergone surgical menopause who need to work out an alternative treatment protocol with their attending physician. You cannot take HRT for 30 or more years without playing with medical fire. One study started in 2002 revealed increased risk of heart disease, pulmonary embolism and stroke in participants taking HRT. The increased risk was so prevalent that the study was closed down before completion in 2005. 

There were benefits in the study. Women on HRT reported fewer hip fractures and cases of colon cancer were reduced in the study population, but the benefits did not outweigh the potential for serious side effects with long-term use. 

How long is safe?
If you are currently using HRT to treat symptoms of menopause, you need to work with your doctor to find the safe medium treatment time. The symptoms of menopause do fade with time, even if you're not taking HRT. I underwent a total abdominal hysterectomy with ovary removal five years ago and today I am menopause-symptom free. I've not taken HRT for the last three years.