HRT Appears to Lower Alzheimer's Risk
But Only if You Take it Early
While the findings indicate that women who take HRT around the time of menopause may derive cognitive benefits years later, Breitner says the study is far from definitive. Alzheimer's researcher Susan M. Resnick, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging, tells WebMD that data on dementia risk from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) trial due to be published within the year should help clarify the issue. The dual-hormone therapy arm of the WHI was halted earlier this year when researchers concluded that the HRT drug Prempro is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. But they have yet to publish their findings on Alzheimer's risk.
Resnick says it is too soon to recommend that women take HRT solely for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. In an editorial accompanying the study she writes that the results "offer both hope for a possible neuroprotective effect of hormone therapy and frustration that it could be difficult to determine the optimal timing of treatment."
"Unfortunately, we are going to have to wait for the research to evolve over the next few years," she tells WebMD. "Only very preliminary information has been put out there so far with regard to HRT and Alzheimer's. And ultimately, I think the decision to take HRT or not take HRT will be based on individual risk factors."