Overview & Description
Recent research suggests a possible link between the hormone estrogen andAlzheimer’s disease in women. Alzheimer’s disease is a common,progressive, degenerative disease of the brain. It is characterized byloss of memory and other cognitivefunctions.
Menopause is a stage of life when a woman stopshaving periods and her body makes little estrogen. When this occurs, women areoften 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’sdisease in women. Some research showed that women who took estrogen aftermenopause were less likely todevelopAlzheimer’s disease. It also suggested that Alzheimer’s disease might occurlater in life among women who take estrogen. Women who have never takenestrogen may have Alzheimer’s disease at an earlier age. This research, however, was limited andof less-than-ideal quality.
Other research done with animals suggested that estrogen may have the following effects:
Some limited research has looked at using estrogen to treat the symptoms ofAlzheimer’s disease after they occur. However, one year of treatment had noeffect on Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, it appears that estrogen cannot treatAlzheimer’s disease after it develops.
Some large research studies are now investigating the following:
The results will not be available for several years.
Any woman thinking about using estrogen must remember that it has risks andbenefits. Like any other medication, it has possible side effects. For example,estrogen can increase the risk of cancer of the uterus if a woman hasnot had her uterus removed. This risk can be eliminated if a woman who stillhas 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 tooutweighthe risks. Estrogen therapy helps with symptoms of menopause, such ashot flashes and vaginal dryness. Estrogen therapy alsohasthe followingimportant health benefits:
All women should discuss estrogen use after menopause with their healthcare providers to decide if thebenefitsoutweigh the risks for them. New data about the risks and benefits are stillbeing generated. Estrogen may turn out to be a new tool to preventAlzheimer’s disease. At this time, though, not enough data supports its use toprevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Article type: xmedgeneral