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February 19, 2019

Study links hormone therapy to increased risk of heart disease

Researchers find transgender individuals may have more strokes due to the treatment

Adult Health Transgender
heart disease transgender unsplash Tim Marshall/Unsplash

Hormone therapy during gender transition treatment may carry a much higher risk for developing heart disease, new research warns.

The study, conducted by Dutch researchers at Amsterdam University Medical Center and published in the journal Circulation, showed that trans women — assigned male sex at birth but with female gender identity – who received hormones as part of their transition had more than twice as many strokes as women and nearly twice as many as men.

Among the trans men — assigned female at birth but with male gender identity — who were tracked for an average of eight years, researchers saw a tripling of heart attack risk compared to women, according to U.S. News and World Report


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Additionally, there were five times as many blood clotting reports among transwomen than women and 4.5 times more than men, Times Now reports. 

These findings came from a review of medical records involving more than 2,500 transgender women and nearly 1,400 transgender men undergoing gender transition in Holland who started receiving hormone treatment between 1972 and 2015, according to U.S. News.

The research team clinically followed the trans women for an average of nine years and the trans men for an average of eight years after they had started hormone therapy.

Researchers said their review was not able to take into account other potential risk factors, including smoking history, dietary habits, exercise routines, and/or mental health issues.

That said, the team built upon prior research suggesting that estrogen therapy (given to trans women) may increase the risk for clotting and blood vessel inflammation. Other studies indicate that testosterone therapy (given to trans men) may make blood cells stickier, while also boosting bad cholesterol levels and lowering good cholesterol, U.S. News reports.

"In light of our results, we urge both physicians and transgender individuals to be aware of this increased cardiovascular risk," said Dr. Nienke Nota, lead researcher of the study, tells Medical News Today"It may be helpful to reduce risk factors by stopping smoking, exercising, eating a health[ful] diet and losing weight, if needed before starting therapy, and clinicians should continue to evaluate patients on an ongoing basis thereafter.”

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