Is Hormone Therapy Safe for Women Over 65?

woman walking with bottle of water

Certain women age 65 and older who are experiencing menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats can now safely get relief with hormone therapy (HT), according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

NAMS issued a statement earlier this month which said under some circumstances, low-dose HT, one of the most effective treatments for symptoms of menopause, may be appropriate for women over 65 who meet certain health criteria. These new guidelines are a follow-up to NAMS’ 2012 position statement that recommended against the use of HT in this age group.

Symptoms Can Last for a Decade

Statistics reveal that 42 percent of women ages 60 to 65 experience moderate to severe menopause symptoms that last an average of 7.4 years and for some women, more than a decade. These symptoms may contribute to poor sleep quality and effect a woman’s overall quality of life.

A large Australian study to be published in the July 2015 issue of Menopause, addresses how troublesome hot flashes remain prevalent in women 60 to 65 years of age.

When is HT Appropriate for Older Women?

After discussion with your doctor, you could be prescribed low doses of hormones if you:

  • Are experiencing moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Understand the potential risks of HT, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, and blood clots in the lungs and legs.
  • Have a high risk of bone fractures and can’t withstand the side effects of other osteoporosis-fighting medications.

Addressing the Risks

According to Wulf Utian, MD, medical director for NAMS, “There may be safety concerns, and the Society does recommend that a woman use the lowest dose of hormones for the time appropriate to meet her needs. But we know that, under some circumstances, hormone therapy can be appropriate for women over age 65, such as those instances when the benefits of treating hot flashes outweigh the risks or when a woman has a high risk of bone fractures and can't take other bone drugs or can't withstand their side effects.”

Talk to Your Doctor

Your decision about whether or not to take hormone therapy at any age should be made in careful consultation with your doctor who will help you weigh the risks and benefits in relation to your individual health history and needs.

author name

Hyasmine M. Charles, MD

Hyasmine M. Charles, MD, is a physician with Lancaster General Health Physicians Women’s Internal Medicine.

Education: A graduate of the Penn State University College of Medicine and the residency program at the University of Rochester, Dr. Charles completed her fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. She is board certified in internal medicine.

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