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High Estrogen Levels, Diabetes, & Dementia Risk

Study of older women found having more of hormone from fat tissue after age 65 unwise


"While it was long believed that estrogens -- either endogenous or therapeutic -- were good for women's health, especially for the heart and brain, our study together with other current data challenge this dogma," said Scarabin.

While the study found an association between estrogen levels and dementia risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said, "It's a very interesting study. The most surprising thing is the fact that estrogen is so potent as a risk factor for dementia."

Gandy said there has been a fair amount of research conducted over the past five years showing that higher estrogen levels prior to the age of dementia risk -- before age 65 -- reduces the risk for dementia. "But once they enter the age of risk for Alzheimer's, higher estrogen seems to make things worse and that seems to be borne out by this study," said Gandy, also the associate director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

It's referred to as the "critical window of estrogen therapy," said Carr.

But this study suggests that once that "critical window" closes, a woman with elevated hormone levels may be at a higher risk for dementia, said Carr. "And it also suggests that the combination of diabetes and high estrogen has an even greater effect on dementia risk."

Does the research suggest that older women who take hormone replacement therapy stop -- especially those with diabetes?

Scarabin said the study is not a hormone study -- the women involved in the research were not taking estrogen -- and the results do not suggest women who take estrogen go off of their medication.

Gandy said, "Before we make recommendations, we need to do clinical trials. We'd need to see if women on estrogen at age 'X' versus a same-age placebo group who did not get estrogen had the same effect."

Scarabin added that women with both diabetes and elevated estrogen levels would be a good "target for future prevention studies."

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