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Hormone Therapy Can PREVENT Alzheimer’s Disease In Menopausal Women

Researchers conduct a deep dive into 50 contradictory studies of Hormone Replacement Therapy and the onset of dementia.

Mia West
November 2, 2023
Medically-reviewed and fact checked by Ryan Lester, PA-C

Today is a glorious day for women unnerved by headlines like “Hormone replacement therapy may increase dementia and Alzheimer’s risk, according to a new study”. Why? A team of researchers cared enough about women’s health to conduct a meta-analysis of over 50 conflicting studies investigating the disease's correlation with hormone therapy. And what they published in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience Journal is a huge relief for female hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patients. Taking bioidentical hormones early in menopause can cut dementia risk significantly.

If this information feels offbase, it's likely because just a few months ago we were dispelling the notion that HRT could cause dementia in women. Misleading headlines, like the one mentioned earlier, were trending despite the observational study’s inability to establish a scientific link between the two.

With many conflicting views on the topic, it’s difficult to know up from down as a layman. That’s what makes this new report so important. Researchers took it upon themselves to make sense of all the data to ensure women finally have the facts. 

Estrogen & Brain Health

Before breaking down details of the study, it is important to understand the role estrogen plays in brain function and why it’s frequently prescribed as part of HRT. Estrogen protects the brain by promoting the growth and repair of neurons, increasing blood flow, providing anti-inflammatory effects and increasing serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. An imbalance can have a significant impact on mood, cognition and memory and is the cause of menopausal symptoms such as brain fog, depression and anxiety.

Hot Takes

The analysis accounted for the experiences of over 6 million women and included six randomized control trials and 45 observational reports. The biggest takeaway? If you’re beginning to experience the hormonal dips that come with perimenopause, now is the time to start hormone therapy. 

  • Age Matters: The brain has a higher chance of being protected if hormone replacement is started soon after menopausal symptoms begin. As long as a woman began hormones while she was in menopause and utilized it for more than a decade, there was a 26% reduced risk of dementia. Alternatively, there was no significant lowering of dementia risk rate for women who started taking estrogen over 10 years post-menopause.
  • Hormone Protection Differs: 
  • Estrogen: Estrogen-only treatment taken during perimenopause lowers dementia risk by 32%. This is typically prescribed to women after a hysterectomy.
  • Estrogen + Progesterone: The most common treatment combination reduces risk by 23% when started at the onset of menopause compared with no hormone therapy.
  • Synthetic vs. Bioidentical: According to researchers, in studies reporting a negative association with the use of estrogen and progesterone, the women had been using progestin which is a non-bioidentical form of progesterone. They caution that more research needs to be conducted to determine its safety.

Peace of Mind

Among age-related diseases, Alzheimer's predominantly affects women, with nearly two-thirds of cases in the U.S. occurring in women. The reassuring news that HRT can be an effective prevention tool while also providing some sanity during the menopausal transition is a big win for women. This report also has the potential to dispel some of the unfounded fears and concerns surrounding HRT. So newsrooms, if you’re paying attention, can you do us all a favor and give the provocative, fear-mongering headlines a rest? Menopause is exhausting enough.

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About the Author

Mia West

A former journalist, Mia brings a high energy approach to communications rooted in insights, culture and brand DNA. She is driven by helping brands crystalize their story and foster meaningful, emotional connections with audiences. Over the years she has collaborated with prominent brands such as Petco, Keurig Dr Pepper, Jaguar Land Rover, Revlon, and Procter & Gamble Beauty, as well as many others in the retail, health & wellness, beauty, lifestyle, and sustainability realms. A California native, she lives in San Diego with her family at the beach.

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