New Study Shows Hormone Replacement May Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s — But Timing is Critical

Some women choose to take hormone replacement therapy to minimize the symptoms of menopause. Now a new study shows these drugs may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in these older adults, as well. The study, published in the October 24, 2012 online issue of the journal, Neurology, found that women who began hormone therapy within five years of menopause had a 30 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia than those who did not use the medication.

The study followed 1,768 women ages 65 and older for 11 years, and 1,105 of them had used hormone replacement therapy, consisting of estrogen alone or a combination of estrogen and progestin. While the women who began hormone replacement therapy within five years of menopause had a 30 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the risk was unchanged among hormone users who began treatment five years after menopause. Women who started the therapy when they were at least 65 had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the study showed.

”This has been an area of debate because observational studies have shown a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease with hormone therapy use, while a randomized controlled trial showed an increased risk. Our results suggest that there may be a critical window near menopause where hormone therapy may possibly be beneficial,” said study author Dr. Peter P. Zandi, with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

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