Skip to content

    Menopause Health Center

    Font Size

    HRT Appears to Lower Alzheimer's Risk

    But Only if You Take it Early
    WebMD Health News

    Nov. 5, 2002 -- Long-term hormone replacement therapy has been all but abandoned for the prevention of disease in the months since a large government study linked its use to an increased risk of heart attack, blood clots, and breast cancer. But the same study found HRT helps protect against bone loss, and new research suggests it may protect against Alzheimer's disease in women who take it around the time of menopause.

    The study found that elderly women with a history of hormone use were less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those who had never taken HRT. But current users who had taken HRT for less than 10 years developed the disease at an increased rate compared with women who took HRT for more than 10 years.

    "This study suggests that use of hormone therapy within 10 years of onset of Alzheimer's disease is not protective," researcher John C.S. Breitner, MD, tells WebMD. "Several other studies have shown that hormone therapy is of no value in women who have already developed Alzheimer's. Our data suggest that even for women with very mild cognitive impairment it may be too late."

    In their study, published in the Nov. 6 Journal of the American Medical Association, Breitner and colleagues followed about 3,200 elderly residents of a county in Utah who were taking part in an ongoing observational study. None of the participants had Alzheimer's at enrollment in 1995, but 2.6% of the men and 4.7% of the women were diagnosed with the disease three years later.

    Women who used HRT were found to have a 41% reduction in risk of developing Alzheimers disease, compared with women who had never taken hormone therapy. Women who took HRT for more than 10 years had the same risk for Alzheimer's as men, and longer use was associated with larger risk reductions. So women who had taken HRT for more than 10 years had decreased their risk of developing the disease.

    In an effort to determine whether an overall healthier lifestyle was responsible for the decreased risk among HRT users, the researchers also examined the use of multivitamin and calcium supplements. Supplement use was not found to be protective against Alzheimer's. But Breitner says the findings cannot exclude the possibility that HRT users differ from nonusers in other important attributes related to health in general and Alzheimer's in particular.

    Today on WebMD

    woman walking outdoors
    How to handle headaches, night sweats, and more.
    mature woman holding fan in face
    Symptoms and treatments.
    woman hiding face behind hands
    11 ways to keep skin bright and healthy.
    Is it menopause or something else?
    senior couple
    mature woman shopping for produce
    Alcohol Disrupting Your Sleep
    mature couple on boat
    mature woman tugging on her loose skin
    senior woman wearing green hat
    estrogen gene

    WebMD Special Sections