Herringtons research is the latest development in the story of hormone replacement and heart disease. For years, doctors prescribed hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart disease in postmenopausal women. These treatment decisions were based on observational studies showing that women who took estrogen had fewer heart attacks.
But recently, assumptions about the heart disease benefits of hormone therapy have been questioned. Several major studies have shown that in women with heart disease, taking hormone replacement does not slow heart disease progression.
Our research suggests that genetics may identify some women who respond more favorably to hormone replacement therapy than others, said Herrington.
He said additional research is needed to learn if this gene variant also makes women more sensitive to other beneficial effects of estrogen including maintaining bone mineral density and reducing hot flashes as well as to negative effects of estrogen, such as formation of blood clots in the legs.
It makes sense that if one area cholesterol is affected, others might be too.
Herrington said it is too soon for doctors to begin testing for this gene variant and they should continue to follow the American Heart Associations guidelines concerning the use of estrogen and other therapies for preventing heart disease in women.
However, if findings such as this are confirmed in other studies, its likely that testing for gene variants will soon become a regular part of the practice of medicine, said Herrington.