Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Long-Term HRT Worsens Memory

A Few Years of Estrogen in Early Menopause May Be Best

WebMD Health News

Oct. 28, 2002 -- For older women who have Alzheimer's, a decade of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) may mean worse memory loss.

New research involving rats shows that instead of helping prevent onset of dementia, ERT actually made learning worse, reports Gary L. Wenk, PhD, professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson.

His study appears in this month's Behavioral Neuroscience.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and memory loss in older adults. Older women are especially at risk for developing Alzheimer's; family history and some environmental toxins seem to play a role. But some brain changes are part of the natural aging process, Wenk tells WebMD.

"Inflammation in the brain is just something that happens as you get older," he says. In fact, scientists are beginning to pay closer attention to this brain inflammation, to better understand Alzheimer's and other brain diseases, Wenk says.

In their study, Wenk and colleagues looked at the link between menopause, Alzheimer's, and estrogen.

The study involved 40 female rats. The researchers induced brain inflammation similar to Alzheimer's disease in half of the rats. These rats also had their ovaries removed to mimic menopause. The researchers then gave the rats ERT and looked at its effect on learning.

Then, they tried "teaching" the rats to go through a maze.

The findings: Those rats that had received ERT -- and that had brain inflammation -- did worse in the maze test later on.

It was a surprise to Wenk. "We expected the animals to get better with chronic estrogen therapy," he tells WebMD. "We initially thought it would be very positive, very beneficial, that it would show estrogen would improve cognitive [learning] function in the female mice with brain inflammation."

Earlier studies had shown that women taking ERT in menopause were less likely have Alzheimer's, he says.

However, one study -- published midway through Wenk's study -- showed that when women with early-onset Alzheimer's were taking ERT, their memory got worse.

"That was the same thing we were seeing," he tells WebMD. When he performed additional rat studies, he saw the same thing, time after time.

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression