HRT could reduce Alzheimer’s risk in some women – study
‘Important’ research shows HRT associated with better memory and cognition in later life among some women
HRT could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease among some women at risk of developing the condition, according to new research.
About one in four UK women are believed to carry the APOE4 gene, which is known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers found that HRT, the first-line treatment for the management of menopause symptoms, is associated with better memory, cognition and larger brain volumes in later life among women carrying the gene. They found HRT was most effective when women started taking it during perimenopause.
The research team from the University of East Anglia and the University of Edinburgh studied data from 1,178 women participating in the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia initiative – which was set up to study participants’ brain health over time.
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The project spanned 10 countries and tracked participants’ brains from ‘healthy’ to a diagnosis of dementia in some. Participants were included if they were over 50 and dementia-free.
Dr Rasha Saleh, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: ‘This [research] is really important because there have been very limited drug options for Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years and there is an urgent need for new treatments.
‘The effects of HRT in this observation study, if confirmed in an intervention trial, would equate to a brain age that is several years younger.’
Professor Michael Hornberger, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: ‘It’s too early to say for sure that HRT reduces dementia risk in women, but our results highlight the potential importance of HRT and personalised medicine in reducing Alzheimer’s risk.’
The next stage of the research will be to carry out an intervention trial to confirm the impact of starting HRT early on cognition and brain health.
It will also be important to analyse which types of HRT are most beneficial, Professor Hornberger added.
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Commenting on the findings, GP, Menopause Specialist and balance menopause app founder Dr Louise Newson said the research added to the growing body of evidence on the benefits of estrogen for women’s brains.
She said: ‘We have known for many years how important estradiol and testosterone are in our brains and can reduce dementia risk. Studies have used older types of HRT when shown conflicting results, so it is so encouraging to hear the next stage of this research will look at different type of HRT.
‘Women’s health in general is a hugely neglected area of research, and I firmly believe there needs to be more funding allocated to researching the role of hormones in the brain and menopause to provide women with evidence-based solutions to preventing dementia.’
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The research is published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy