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Can HRT protect against Alzheimer’s?

24 October 2012

Can HRT protect against Alzheimer’s?

Scientists have found a window within five years of the menopause where hormone replacement therapy actually cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by a third. However, taking the hormones later could increase the risk.

Researchers studied 1,768 women over the age of 65 for 11 years, recording their history of HRT and the date their menopause began.

1,105 women had used some form of hormone therapy and during the study 176 went on to develop Alzheimer’s. This included 87 who had taken hormone therapy compared to 89 who hadn’t.

The study concluded that there is a five year window from the beginning of menopause where taking hormone replacement drugs can decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

The protective effect may come from boosting supplies of oestrogen, which is believed to play a key role in keeping the brain healthy, or its benefits to the heart. A previous study found that HRT could also reduce the risk of heart attacked and heart failure.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “Previous research into HRT has shown mixed results, but this useful study suggests the timing of hormone use may be critical for either raising or reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. More work is needed to understand this link and help women make informed decisions about whether to start HRT, but these findings could be important for guiding future research.”