Hormone replacement therapy can significantly reduce the risk of Chinese women developing heart disease, according to a University of Hong Kong study. Long-term therapy cuts so-called 'bad cholesterol' by 38 per cent while increasing 'good cholesterol' by 18 per cent, the study found. It also reduces homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that has been identified as another risk factor for heart disease, by 23 per cent. The study, involving 145 healthy local Chinese women aged 40 to 69, was conducted between 1998 and last year. It was the first study on the effects of hormone replacement therapy - a daily pill of low-dose female hormones - to be conducted on Chinese women, and was also important because it involved post-menopausal women who had been receiving the therapy for 3.5 to 4.5 years. The team of investigators was led by Professor Man Ying-keung, head of the department of pharmacology of the Institute of Cardiovascular Science and Medicine at the university. 'We have now shown that in women who take [therapy] long term, the effect persists,' he said. Professor Man could not say that all post-menopausal women should take hormone therapy, but he said the more women could reduce risk factors of high cholesterol and homocysteine, 'the greater the chance those women will not have heart disease'. Dr Susan Fan Yun-sun, executive director of the Family Planning Association, said women were slowly accepting the need for hormone therapy. A total of 2,326 women died of cardiovascular disease and 85,858 women required hospital treatment in 1999, Department of Health figures show. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death among women in the SAR, after cancer.