London, Sep 12

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), used to treat common symptoms of menopause, can help slow the decline in lung function in middle-aged women, according to new research.

Women who suffer from airway diseases, the decline in lung function may influence quality of life, as it could lead to an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue.

According to the study, menopause, where the level of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone fall, accelerates the decline in lung function.

But women who took HRT -- where these hormones are prescribed -- for two or more years lost an average of 46 ml less of lung volume compared with women who never took HRT.

"Our findings show that female sex hormones are important for the preservation of lung function in middle-aged women," Kai Triebner, post-doctoral student at the University of Bergen in Norway.

For the study, presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan, Italy, the team followed 3,713 women for approximately 20 years from the early 1990s to 2010.

While HRT can help with menopausal symptoms and protects against osteoporosis, it has also been linked with an increase in the risk of breast cancer and heart and blood vessel problems.

"Women with existing health problems, for instance asthma, need to be followed more thoroughly through the menopausal transition and be provided with advice on medications that take the changing hormone levels better into account -- ideally with a personalised approach," Triebner added.

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