MedPage is reporting a study showing that hormone therapy in midlife has been associated with reduced women’s risk of developing dementia in old age. Compared with controls and after adjusting for other risk factors, women who only used hormone replacement at midlife (age 40 – 55) had a decreased risk of dementia by about 24% versus a 46% increase in risk among women who only took hormones late in life.
This is great news for women early in menopause. Especially since a substudy of the Women’s Health Initiative showed that hormone use doubled the risk of dementia.
What many people don’t realize is that the WHI substudy investigated hormone use in women who started taking the drugs at age 65. Critics immediately suggested that hormones were started too late to provide benefit.
This study may prove those critics wrong.
It appears to be a good study, even adjusting the data for a number of risk factors including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and stroke.
It does, however, have some limitations, including a lack of data on duration of hormone use at midlife, as well as a lack of data on dose and type of hormones used during the midlife period.
Nonetheless, the researchers correctly point out that it would be impractical to conduct a randomized controlled trial that followed women for 30 years or more to investigate the possibility that hormone therapy was neuroprotective.
Nevertheless, the study seems to show that hormone therapy, at least from age 40 – 55 is associated with a reduced risk of dementia in the eight and ninth decade of life.
Note that this study was published as an abstract and presented as a poster at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.