Doctors used to routinely prescribe hormone replacement therapy to women to ease discomfort as they approach menopause, for symptoms ranging from night sweats to irritability. But in the early 2000s, its use plummeted.

Today, medical researcher Howard Hodis, MD, is driven by a singular goal: to prove the benefits of hormone replacement therapy and undo the harm he says has been done to women’s health over the past 20 years. From the Keck School of Medicine of USC, he runs a multimillion-dollar, National Institutes of Health-funded study to see how hormone replacement therapy affects women’s thinking and cardiovascular health.

Hormone replacement therapy contains the female hormone estrogen, restoring some of women’s estrogen levels that decline as they age. Besides fighting hot flashes, it helps prevent bone loss and fractures. Over 20 years though, large studies observing the health of women also noticed something else: Those on the therapy had less heart disease, the leading killer of American women.

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