Azara Blog: HRT might help memory in women

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Date published: 2008/03/25

The BBC says:

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may protect post-menopausal women against memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.

A study found women's memories are affected when their bodies stop producing the hormone oestrogen - as happens at the menopause.

However, the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London found memory recovered when hormone supplies were restored - the effect achieved by HRT.

Women have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's than men.
There is a theory that oestrogen may help prevent the build up of damaging protein tangles in the brain which are thought to trigger cell death, and Alzheimer's.

But when supplies of the hormone are abruptly cut at the menopause, women may become more vulnerable.

A major US study found no evidence of a protective effect from HRT - and even suggested the combined form of the treatment might increase the general risk of dementia.

The trial was halted early when when results suggested some women taking HRT had an increased risk for breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, UK experts argue that this study focused on older women, who did not receive HRT immediately after the menopause.

The latest research was carried out on 30 young, pre-menopausal women who were having surgery for benign womb growths called fibroids.

It's only one study, and it seems to contradict another study, perhaps because of the difference in age of the participants. So obviously it should be taken with a pinch of salt. And it suffers from the usual problems of these kind of health studies, in that it only considers one thing in isolation. So HRT might be good for Alzheimer's, but it's equally likely to be bad for other things. And the main point of taking HRT is not to prevent Alzheimer's, but to mitigate some of the potentially debilitating side effects of menopause. This idea seems somehow to be lost in the discussion.

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