Alzheimer's Disease and Estrogen
Recent research suggests a possible link between the hormone estrogen and
Alzheimer's disease in women. Alzheimer's disease is a common,
progressive, degenerative disease of the brain. It is characterized by
loss of memory and other cognitive
Menopause is a stage of life when a woman stops
having periods and her body makes little estrogen. When this occurs, women are
often advised to take estrogen as a part of a regimen of hormone replacement therapy.
What is the information for this topic?
Research suggests a possible role for estrogen in preventing Alzheimer's
disease in women. Some research showed that women who took estrogen after
menopause were less likely to
Alzheimer's disease. It also suggested that Alzheimer's disease might occur
later in life among women who take estrogen. Women who have never taken
estrogen may have Alzheimer's disease at an earlier age. This research, however, was limited and
of less-than-ideal quality.
Other research done with animals suggested that estrogen may have the following effects:
prevent the death of some brain cells
lessen deposits of a material in the brain that affects brain cell
function. These deposits may help cause Alzheimer's disease.
Some limited research has looked at using estrogen to treat the symptoms of
Alzheimer's disease after they occur. However, one year of treatment had no
effect on Alzheimer's disease. Currently, it appears that estrogen cannot treat
Alzheimer's disease after it develops.
Some large research studies are now investigating the following:
Can estrogen truly can prevent Alzheimer's disease in women?
What is the best dose of estrogen to use?
The results will not be available for several years.
Any woman thinking about using estrogen must remember that it has risks and
benefits. Like any other medication, it has possible side effects. For example,
estrogen can increase the risk of cancer of the uterus if a woman has
not had her uterus removed. This risk can be eliminated if a woman who still
has her uterus takes a form of the hormone progesterone along with estrogen.
Many experts advise women to take estrogen after menopause. For many women, the benefits are thought to
the risks. Estrogen therapy helps with symptoms of menopause, such as
hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Estrogen therapy also
important health benefits:
It can reduce the risk of the bone-thinning condition called
osteoporosis and broken bones that can result from that disease.
It can improve cholesterol levels.
It may help ward off
All women should discuss estrogen use after
menopause with their healthcare providers to decide if the
outweigh the risks for them. New data about the risks and benefits are still
being generated. Estrogen may turn out to be a new tool to prevent
Alzheimer's disease. At this time, though, not enough data supports its use to
prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease.