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The role of medications in successful aging

R D Langer 1 2

Climacteric doi: 10.1080/13697137.2021.1911991. .


Successful aging includes good health and low levels of disability. To that end, primary prevention is far better than managing subsequent organ damage. When medication is needed to prevent or manage disease, the preferred choice should be associated with the greatest benefits and fewest adverse effects. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in postmenopausal women worldwide. Considering disease-adjusted life years, other leading causes are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, dementias, hearing loss, cancers of the breast, lung and bowel, osteoporosis, fractures and falls, depression, osteoarthritis, refractive errors of the eye and non-diabetic chronic kidney disease. This review explores the global prevalence of these diseases in women aged 50 years and older, and medications commonly used for them, and contrasts the effects of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) with others. When initiated early, there is good evidence for MHT benefit in all-cause mortality and primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis; fair evidence for benefit in dementias, depression and osteoarthritis; limited evidence for benefit in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hearing loss, non-diabetic chronic kidney disease and colorectal cancer; null effects on lung cancer and refractive errors; and varied effects on breast cancer and stroke. Relative benefits and adverse effects of other medications warrant consideration.