The researchers followed nearly 1,800 women from Cache County, Utah, aged 65 and older, for 11 years. The participants provided a history of their hormone therapy use and the approximate date when menopause began.
In all, more than 1,100 participants had used hormone therapy, either consisting of estrogen alone or in combination with progestin. During the study, 7.9 percent of the women who had taken hormones developed Alzheimer's disease compared with 13.4 percent of the women who had not.
Although those who had begun hormone therapy within five years of menopause had a 30 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's than those who had not used hormones, a higher risk of dementia was observed among women who had started a combined therapy of estrogen and progestin when they were 65 or older.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, issued a final statement Oct. 23 recommending against the use of hormone therapy to prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease or dementia in women who had experienced menopause.
Given that recommendation, and the wide range of research about hormone replacement therapy, what should women do?
Dr. Victor Henderson, professor of neurology and health research and policy at Stanford University, said the research shouldn't spur women to take hormone therapy in an effort to cut their risk of getting Alzheimer's.
"I don't think the message is that women of any age should take the hormones to reduce dementia risk," he said.
Henderson, who wrote an accompanying editorial in same journal issue, urged caution: "More research is needed before we can make new recommendations for women about their use of hormone replacement therapy," he said.
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