If you’re fed up with hot flashes, fatigue, and irregular periods, you may be interested in Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), which is medication used to boost estrogen levels during menopause. When estrogen decreases, it can cause many uncomfortable symptoms, such as night sweats, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, and bone loss. Hormone replacement is a government-approved treatment available in two basic types: Estrogen-only therapy (ET), which is prescribed for women who have had a hysterectomy, and EPT, a combination of estrogen and progestogen therapy for women who still have a uterus. It can be administered in various ways and works equally well whether it is a systemic product distributed via injection, oral tablet, patch, or spray—or used as a local treatment on a specific area of the body (creams, vaginal rings, or inserts). Once HRT is administered, the body absorbs the estrogen into the bloodstream and helps alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of menopause.

As with any medication, though, there are some risks in taking Hormone Replacement Therapy. For example, EPT has been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer (in long-term use), but both ET and EPT have risks of blood clots and strokes (especially if used after the age of 60), endometrial cancer (if the patient no longer has a uterus), increased chance of gallbladder problems, and a higher risk for dementia. However, side effects depend primarily on the patient’s age, health history, and the type (dose and length) of HRT used. To minimize these risks, physicians are now prescribing lower doses of HRT—and for shorter periods (depending on the severity of symptoms). Treatment plans are individualized for each patient, and after reviewing your health, your physician will determine what type of hormone replacement is best for you.

Many menopausal women agree that the benefits of HRT far outweigh the possible risks. Hormone therapy has effectively decreased hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and osteoporosis. Other women, like Anne from Dallas, Texas, claim that they significantly reduced fatigue and brain fog. “I struggled every morning to get out of bed, and I had to force myself to go to the gym for exercise,” says Anne. “I was always tired, depressed, and often forgetful. I just didn’t feel like myself–as if I had aged 10 years.” Once Anne started HRT, her symptoms decreased. “I’ve taken a low dose of HRT for a few months and noticed a difference in my body. Hot flashes are less intense and less frequent. I actually sleep better, too, so I have more energy during the day. My husband has also noticed that I’m not as moody anymore,” laughs Anne. “HRT has been a lifesaver for me. ”

Other benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy (beyond typical menopausal symptoms) include a lower risk of colon cancer and diabetes, improvement in joints, decreased tooth loss, and a lower death rate in women who take HRT in their 50s. The therapy has also been attributed to less urinary urgency, better sleep, comfortable intercourse, less risk of breaking a bone, and alleviation of dry, itchy skin. In addition, numerous patients have reported success with Hormone Therapy and a better sense of mental well-being.

To reap the full benefits of HRT, schedule regular doctor visits, pelvic exams, and mammograms. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake, and decrease your stress by doing relaxing activities that bring you joy. If you follow your physician’s instructions, you’ll be well on your way to feeling like your old self without the symptoms of menopause disrupting your life.

Author Bio: Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane and the voice behind the midlife blog, Menopausal Mother. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Independent, U.S.A. Today/Reviewed, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, AARP, Woman’s Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, and many others. You can find her at http://www. marciakesterdoyle.com