How does hormone replacement therapy affect the risk of Alzheimer's?
Many women use so-called hormone replacement therapy to combat the unpleasant side effects of menopause. Doctors have now warned that hormone replacement therapy can significantly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
The University of Helsinki researchers found in their current study that taking hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of Alzheimer's. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "BMJ".
What is hormone replacement therapy?
Many women rely on hormone replacement therapy (HRT or HET) to cope with their menopause symptoms. However, this leads to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's. Hormone replacement therapy works by increasing the level of female sex hormones to compensate for the natural loss of estrogen caused by aging. Typical symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, mood swings, loss of sexual desire and vaginal dryness. Taking HRT effectively eliminates these signs and improves bone health.
Data from 170,000 women were evaluated
For their study, the Finnish scientists analyzed the data from 170,000 women. They found that long-term use of HRT pills increases the risk of Alzheimer's between nine and 17 percent when the women concerned started therapy in their 50s. Scientists suspect that the hormones can cause early brain changes that lead to Alzheimer's. The results indicate that long-term use causes up to 18 additional cases of Alzheimer's per 10,000 users of hormone replacement therapies per year. Younger women should continue to receive hormone replacement therapy if they have problems with their menopause, but women over the age of 60 should think twice before taking it, the study's authors advise.
These modifiable risk factors can favor Alzheimer's
It is estimated that up to about half of Alzheimer's cases worldwide could be the result of seven key, modifiable risk factors. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, depression, physical inactivity and cognitive inactivity. A healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and other dementias. However, it is important to know that most cases of Alzheimer's occur regardless of the health of the person concerned, age and genetics play a huge role.
Hormone replacement therapy is safe treatment for most women
The use of hormone replacement therapies has decreased significantly in recent years after studies have shown that such therapy increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and strokes. Still, in the UK alone, four out of five women take pill hormone replacement therapy, doctors say.
Hormone replacement therapy can be of great benefit to many women who suffer from the particularly unpleasant side effects of menopause, the research team reports. Therapy is an effective and safe treatment for most women, but as with all other drugs, there are risks. It is known that Alzheimer's begins ten or 20 years before the symptoms. Here, it is possible that HRT is somehow accelerating these early changes in the vulnerable, the researchers at the University of Helsinki suspect. (as)