Journal / Women's Health Initiative

The Benefits of the Women’s Health Initiative

Nancy L. Belcher

Medically reviewed by Nancy L. Belcher Ph.D, MPA

Written by Winona Editorial Team

Last updated November 25, 2021

The Benefits of the Women’s Health Initiative

Winona is an exclusive women’s healthcare provider that focuses on improving the lives of our patients. We use the most current, and accurate, scientific research available to inform the menopause care we provide. Women have been misinformed about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for many years because of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study.

While we can commend the WHI study as revolutionary because it evaluated women’s health changes with aging, we now know that it is a flawed study especially with regards to the safety of HRT. The most current science confirms that HRT does provide health benefits including a decreased risk of certain diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis some cancers, and even dementia and Alzheimers.1

A woman’s healthcare needs change quite dramatically at two specific phases of her life: 

  1. Puberty, and 

  2. Perimenopause

While we all know what puberty is and speak openly about the effects of increased estrogen in puberty, unfortunately, there is a stigma still surrounding the decrease of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in perimenopause. As a result, many of the peri- and menopause symptoms experienced are not appreciated or recognized as related to menopause (anxiety, sleep disruptions, weight gain, skin changes and so many more). Women are therefore suffering unnecessarily from these life-altering, undiagnosed, and untreated symptoms. Proper HRT can relieve a world of symptoms. 

Even when menopausal women are lucky enough to have their symptoms diagnosed, many hesitate to receive HRT treatment because of the very old, and alarming reports created by the WHI. These results have adversely affected the medical treatment choices of women for decades. 

In response to these inaccurate claims, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women have chosen to forego trying HRT. Decades after the initial misleading reports, and with scores of recent scientific reports that dismiss the WHI claims, women are still choosing to ‘just get through it’ rather than receive proper treatment for their menopause symptoms. Women are suffering in vain and likely causing themselves unnecessary, lifelong health concerns due to faulty, outdated science.

The WHI Pros

The goal of the WHI was to collect data to help clinicians make informed healthcare decisions for women as they age. The WHI was the first long-term national health study that focused on preventing heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. It was one of the largest women’s health projects ever launched in the US, with over 160K women enrolled at 40 clinical centers around the US. They studied women from 50 to 80 years of age. The WHI helped push women’s healthcare to the forefront as a topic to explore, and fund. Now women receive better care and attention as a result of this work. 

NIH Funding of the WHI Was Groundbreaking

The WHI received $300 million from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) over the course of 20 years. As a comparison, in the mid-1980s, women’s health research received  only 13.5% of all grant dollars and those funds were dedicated to fertility and pregnancy medical research, not aging in women.

The WHI was the government’s answer to the call for an equal representation between men’s and women’s health research. For this we are grateful.  It took this WHI study to start the conversation and to advance scientific research in the field of women’s health; specifically for women over the age of 40.

What Did the WHI Study Correctly Report? 

The WHI hormone study claimed to “prove” a lot of things, but we know that many of their findings were not accurate. What they did correctly report was that synthetic hormones formulated in the ’80s and ’90s are not safe at high levels. Those hormones have been replaced with bioidentical hormones and have solved the safety problems associated with the older hormones. These ‘newer’ bioidentical hormones are what Winona provides and not the older versions of HRT. Not only are they safer, but they are also made into tiny particles (micronized) that your body can more easily absorb, so you can use much less of the medication.

The WHI also found that HRT did help some women achieve positive health results. Women taking estrogen in their 50s had a 16% reduced risk of illness and death.1 Follow-up studies of the original WHI research have shown that HRT was not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer mortality during a cumulative follow-up of 18 years.1 These positive results were from using the older, LESS safe hormones. The newer HRT options will most likely provide even more cardiovascular and cancer prevention benefits. A series of in-depth, follow-up analyses were created by the current WHI  which can help clinicians and women make informed decisions about hormone therapy use.  

Decisions about HRT are not easy but the WHI findings, and more recent follow-up studies, can help our Winona clinicians assist menopausal women choose their treatments without fear. Winona only uses bioidentical hormones with the correct balance of estradiol and progesterone. Winona treats each patient as an individual with a specific balance of hormones based on their unique health history. Hormone replacement is not a one-size-fits-all program. Winona’s comprehensive medical intake forms and physician follow-ups provide just the right balance for your body. 

Hormone Replacement

The Benefits of the Womens Health Initiative Article body

With what we know from the WHI and today’s micronized, bioidentical hormones, the options to help women relieve their menopause symptoms are endless. There has been no better time to be a pre-, peri-, or menopausal woman than NOW. Women can enjoy bioidentical hormones as a safe and natural approach to treating menopause symptoms with HRT. We encourage women to talk to their Winona healthcare providers about their medical history and potential risk factors before making decisions about hormone therapy.

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

References:

  1. Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Long-term All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality, The Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Trials. JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH1 JAMA. 2017;318(10):927-938. doi:10.1001/jama.2017. 

  2. NIH, NCI, Decrease in Breast Cancer Rates Related to Reduction in Use of Hormone Replacement Therapy

  3. FDA,Menopause, and Hormones: Common Questions