Hormone Replacement Therapy Could Help Prevent Alzheimer’s in High-Risk Women

Past research has indicated that cumulative estrogen exposure may have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s. The research gave more backing to the theory that estrogen loss may be connected with the development of the disease. Now, a new study seems to provide more evidence of this estrogen-Alzheimer’s link.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England, recently investigated the impact of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on women with the APOE4 gene, which carries an elevated risk for Alzheimer’s. The findings, published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, show that HRT is linked with better brain health in such patients.


Dr. Rasha Saleh, first author from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, says, “We found that HRT use is associated with better memory and larger brain volumes among at-risk APOE4 gene carriers. The associations were particularly evident when HRT was introduced early – during the transition to menopause, known as perimenopause.

“This is really important because there have been very limited drug options for Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years and there is an urgent need for new treatments.”

The team explains that nearly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women, and in addition to living longer than men, it’s thought that the effects of menopause could also play a role in this gender imbalance. That’s why they wanted to see the impact of HRT on female carriers of the APOE4 gene.


The study involved data on nearly 1,200 women from the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia initiative, a 10-country study tracking the long-term brain health of participants. The participants included were all over 50 and cognitively healthy at the start of the study.

The team found that among APOE4 carriers who underwent HRT, there was an improvement in delayed memory, as well as larger volume in the entorhinal and amygdala portions of the brain. While the study couldn’t prove that HRT provided these benefits, the team says the therapy could prove to be an effective means to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s in women with the APOE4 gene.

Michael Hornberger, study co-author and professor at UEA’s Norwich Medical School, says, “It’s too early to say for sure that HRT reduces dementia risk in women, but our results highlight the potential importance of HRT and personalised medicine in reducing Alzheimer’s risk.


“The next stage of this research will be to carry out an intervention trial to confirm the impact of starting HRT early on cognition and brain health. It will also be important to analyse which types of HRT are most beneficial.”

If you’d like to read the whole study, it can be found here.

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