A new systematic review and meta-analysis sheds light on the complicated relationship between hormonal therapy and the risk of developing dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is characterized by progressive memory loss. Symptoms eventually become so severe in typical cases that people with Alzheimer’s require full time care. Women are at a higher risk of developing dementia than men, and this risk may have something to do with hormonal changes during and after menopause.

Research has shown that estrogen plays many neuroprotective roles in the brain. So it has been studied whether replenishing estrogen via systematic hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) may stave off dementia.

Recent results seem to be more nuanced. A recent review and meta-analysis showed that estrogen replacement therapy alone may confer a decreased risk of developing dementia—but only when initiated midlife and not later. The review also showed that estrogen/progesterone combination therapies did not seem to decrease the risk of dementia later in life or midlife (and may even increase the risk later in life).

More work needs to be done to explore the relationship between hormones and the risk of dementia. However, this literature shows promise and should continue to be followed.


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