If you’re looking at hormones, here’s what you will need to know first.

As we age, we want to feel robust, mentally sharp and healthy. So, it’s no wonder so much attention is being placed on hormone replacement therapy.

In the 1990’s, more than 40% of women were taking some form of hormone therapy primarily for their hearts. In 2002, a landmark study by Women’s Health Initiative found that hormone therapy provided no protection against heart disease. In fact, it actually increased a woman’s risk.

Over the past decade, reviews of older studies along with newer ones revealed it was all in the timing of when the hormones were introduced. For a woman, taking hormones early in menopause helped, while taking them later in life caused the risk of heart problems.

“In men, the issue is even more contentious, in part because the data are so limited,” says Dr. Shalender Bhasin, an endocrinologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The Women’s Health Initiative hormone trial included more than 27,000 women who were followed for nine years. In contrast, the largest-ever trial of testosterone included 790 men who were followed for one year.

Hormones affect your mood, sex life, mental health, physical health and general overall well being. For many people, hormone replacement is the way to go. You will find ten people who swear by them yet a handful who would not dare try them. Given the risks and rewards, hormone therapy is worth trying.

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