Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can help you live your best life

You may have noticed a lot of mixed messages over the years about hormone replacement therapy – Is it safe? Who can use it? And wait, men can? – but a recent surge in awareness combined with updated research has cleared the path for HRT to become a beneficial treatment for women and men. And by beneficial, we mean life changing.

Recognizing the significant benefits of HRT, Colleen McCleery, MD, has dedicated her practice, Renuva HRT & Wellness in Cherry Hill, to providing bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for women and men. She has seen firsthand how positively people respond to the treatment.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Defined

Colleen McCleery, MD

HRT replaces decreased levels of hormones like estrogen and testosterone in our bodies to regulate hormone levels. When those levels are off, you can experience a wide range of symptoms, says Dr. McCleery, who is the medical director of Renuva HRT & Wellness. Dr. McCleery has been helping women and men improve their lives with bioidentical HRT for over a decade.

“A few years ago, a patient of mine was ready to quit her job,” says Dr. McCleery. “She taught math, and they had a new kind of math they wanted her to teach. She’s a lovely person, but she felt bad about herself. She had brain fog. She was still upset about her divorce that happened 2 years earlier. So we started her on hormone replacement.”

Symptoms of a hormone imbalance that typically occur during perimenopause, menopause and andropause, include hot flashes, brain fog, low energy, diminished libido and other challenges that can interrupt your life and make you feel older than you are.

Luckily, HRT can help.

A few months after starting bioidentical HRT, Dr. McCleery’s patient was a new person. She kept her job and learned the new math program, she met someone and is now in a happy relationship. Her daughter even got married, and she was able to attend the wedding and face her ex-husband, something she didn’t think would be possible before HRT.

“She’s now on her third year of HRT, and she’s happy, she’s in love,” says Dr. McCleery. “There are so many stories like this, where people turn their whole world around.”

Bioidentical HRT at Renuva

Successful bioidentical hormone replacement therapy isn’t as simple as popping an estrogen pill each morning or adding a testosterone supplement to your routine.

“HRT is medicine,” says Dr. McCleery. “You should take it under supervision and with guidance from someone who knows what they’re doing – a practitioner who specializes in women’s health.”

Linda Batastini-Farnoly, APN,C

At Renuva, Dr. McCleery and her team – Linda Batastini-Farnoly, APN,C and Nora Marini, MSN, WHNP-BC – take a biopsychosocial approach with each patient when deciding the right HRT treatment. They don’t focus on physical ailments only, and instead ask detailed questions to discover everything going on in a patient’s life. That’s why every first visit is a full hour.

“You have a lot going on in your early 40s and into your 60s and 70s,” Dr. McCleery says. “You’re still taking care of some children, or children are going off to college. You may still be taking care of your parents. And you’re working. You might be going through a divorce. There’s a lot of psychological changes going on.”

Understanding that each patient’s experience is unique, Dr. McCleery provides bioidentical HRT. Once a patient is found to be a candidate for HRT after an initial screening, they get a comprehensive blood test and schedule an hour-long initial consultation. Dr. McCleery then develops a formula of hormones that is identical to the hormones already in the patient’s body, which isn’t done with standard HRT.

“Non-bioidentical hormones are effective, but in men, their body has to work harder to use them,” Dr. McCleery says. “It is harder on their liver and can cause more side effects.”

Nora Marini, MSN, WHNP-BC

At Renuva, hormones are introduced to the body through FDA-recognized pellets that are placed just beneath the skin. Patients are monitored, and women usually require HRT every 3 – 4 months, and men, every 5-6 months.

And while Dr. McCleery specifically tailors the HRT dosage to each patient, she may change that dose as time goes on, depending on the patient’s needs. It’s something she’s perfected during the 11 years she has specialized in women’s health and HRT.

“I base the dose on age, weight, height, activity levels. For example, if a person comes in and their job has them sitting at a desk all day, they’ll get a different dose from a person who runs ultra marathons,” she says.

HRT for Men (yes, men)

While the thought of a man getting HRT may be surprising to you, more and more men are finding they too can benefit from the treatment. Symptoms of low testosterone include brain fog, insomnia, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, increased belly fat, poor memory and decreased energy. “They’re just not motivated to do the things they used to do,” says Dr. McCleery.

While women may receive more than one hormone as part of their HRT, men only receive testosterone. And as she does with her female patients, Dr. McCleery tailors the HRT dose to the individual patient after an hour-long first visit and comprehensive blood work.

HRT often restores testosterone levels to those of a man in his 20s. The treatment is simple and, also like Dr. McCleery’s female patients, many men report significant improvements after starting the therapy. “They come back saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I feel so much better,’” says Dr. McCleery.

The Truth About HRT

HRT has been surrounded by a wealth of myths that have had patients – and in some cases, women’s health providers – skeptical of the treatment for decades. And it all started with a Women’s Health Initiative study in 2002.

“The study reported that HRT increased women’s risk of cancer and heart disease, but they actually looked at the data incorrectly,” says Dr. McCleery. “They have since updated that report, but the effects from it have lasted. I’ve had patients tell me their Ob/Gyn said if they took hormones, they would die. That’s not true.”

The study followed women between the ages of 45 and 75 who all started HRT, and then reported that those women had an increased risk of adverse health impacts. But, says Dr. McCleery, the data shows that the increase was primarily found in women who started HRT between 60 and 75. The women who started the treatment between 45 and 60 benefited from it and didn’t experience an increased risk of adverse impacts.

“If you’re going to start HRT, you need to start before age 60 or within 10 years of menopause,” she says.

Another update to HRT research, says Dr. McCleery, is that women can stay on the treatment for longer than previously thought. The original recommendation was to stop treatment after 5 to 7 years, but more recent research shows it’s safe to continue for a longer period of time.

Still, Dr. McCleery reminds anyone interested in HRT that it’s important to have someone guiding you and monitoring your progress.

“If HRT is done for the right person, in the right way, at the right time in a patient’s life and guided by the right provider, it’s completely safe,” says Dr. McCleery. “And it can be life changing.”

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