Besides offering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a quick-fix solution for menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings and weight gain, medicine has been using it as preventative medicine against cardiovascular problems such as heart attack, blood clots and stroke.
This is because, as high levels of circulating oestrogen and progesterone help to lower the stroke risk in premenopausal women, it should be beneficial to pump these hormones into women once menopause kicks in, thus replenishing depleted levels of protective oestrogen and progesterone.
Nevertheless, a plethora of studies shows that these little pills and patches, far from being preventative, actually increase the risks of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.
Now, a pooled analysis of 28 separate trials, all looking at the association of HRT and stroke, has finally provided the final nail in the coffin of the prevention theory. This review, involving nearly 40,000 cases, found that the risk of stroke increased by nearly 30 per cent among women taking HRT. More worryingly, it also showed that HRT users were more likely to suffer more severe strokes, resulting in a greater risk of death or disability (BMJ, 2005; 330: 342-4).