Hormone therapy may be putting trans women at risk for serious cardiovascular problems

A new study looked at the records of nearly 5,000 transgender people undergoing hormone therapy and made some pretty alarming findings. The study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that transgender women who are undergoing hormone therapy may be at greater risk for experiencing major cardiovascular problems, such as strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks.

Researchers reviewed eight years’ worth of medical records and focused their attention on transgender Kaiser Permanente patients over 18 who were undergoing hormone therapy. They compared the records of transgender patients to cisgender patients who were of similar age and health.

As the study found, transgender women were twice as likely as cisgender men or women to develop venous thromboembolism (VTE). This is a dangerous medical condition in which a blood clot forms in the veins of the leg, groin, or arm and travels up to the lungs. VTE is so serious that it can cause long-term problems with breathing or even lead to death.

But that’s not all. Transgender women undergoing hormone therapy were also found to be 80% to 90% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to cisgender women.

The same couldn’t be said for transgender men. As researchers found, transgender men on hormone therapy did not seem to have the same risk for cardiovascular problems as trans women.

“This is the largest study of the health of transgender individuals on hormone therapy ever done, Dr. Darios Getahun, an author of the study and research scientist at Kaiser Permanente, told NBC News. “Doctors and patients need to be aware of the possibility for increased health risks for transgender women.

The reason why trans women are most affected is still unknown. Although the study did find major health risks, Dr. Getahun recognized the research did have its limitations. Since the researchers only compared records, it’s hard to say if hormone therapy directly caused transgender women to be at a greater risk for cardiovascular issues. Outside medications, dosage, and the type of hormones administered are major factors that were unknown for this particular study. In short, more research needs to be done — the more information you have, the better you’ll be at making the right decision for you.

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