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HRT ‘might ward off Alzheimers

Posted Jun 18 2008 6:09pm
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may protect post-menopausal women against memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

A study found women’s memories are affected when their bodies stop producing the hormone oestrogen - as happens at the menopause.

However, London’s Institute of Psychiatry found memory recovered when hormone supplies were restored – the effect achieved by HRT.

Women have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than men.

It is estimated that around 450,000 women in the UK have the disease.

There is a theory that oestrogen may help prevent the build up of damaging protein tangles in the brain which are thought to trigger cell death, and Alzheimer’s.

But when supplies of the hormone are abruptly cut at the menopause, women may become more vulnerable.

A major US study found no evidence of a protective effect from HRT – and even suggested the combined form of the treatment might increase the general risk of dementia.

However, UK experts argue that this study focused on older women, who did not receive HRT immediately after the menopause.

The latest research was carried out on 30 young, pre-menopausal women who were having surgery for benign womb growths called fibroids.

The patients were given a drug which shrinks the fibroids, but which also temporarily shuts down the ovaries, producing a state similar to the menopause.

Each woman was given a memory test before, during and after treatment, when her ovaries were once again producing oestrogen.

Average scores were similar before and after treatment, but dipped by about 10 per cent while the women’s ovaries were shut down.

The researchers also recorded reduced levels of activity in an area of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex during treatment, which is linked to learning and memory.
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