Here’s the good news for women on hormone therapy for menopause: A new study suggests it will not increase your risk of dementia or otherwise hurt your brain health.
Now here’s the bad news for women on hormone therapy: It doesn’t look like it will improve your brain health either.
I think of this as the period of the Great Shake-Out on hormone therapy. First came the Fountain of Youth period, with some doctors handing out estrogen and progestin like candy to women during and after menopause.
Then, about a decade ago, came seminal Women’s Health Initiative findings that hormone therapy could carry daunting risks, including higher rates of heart attacks, dementia and cancer in older women.
Research led to a new hypothesis, the “Window of Opportunity” theory: That if women started hormone therapy earlier, more like in their fifties than in their sixties or seventies, they might reap benefits with fewer risks. For heart disease, there’s extensive evidence that is indeed the case.
Now, the “WHIMSY” study — for Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study in Younger Women — just out in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, does seem to bear out somewhat the earlier-window theory when it comes to brain health. At least when it comes to avoiding harm.
Dr. Fran Grodstein of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who researches the long-term health effects of hormone therapy but was not involved with this latest study, wrote in a commentary accompanying the paper:
“Approximately 10 years ago, the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) found that postmenopausal hormone therapy in older women caused nearly two-fold increases in dementia risk, worse rates of cognitive decline over time, and decreased brain volume on magnetic resonance imaging, compared with placebo treatment.”
But the new study, which looked at over 1300 post-menopausal women who started taking estrogen in their fifties, found no such heightened risks after seven years.
It didn’t find any brain benefits either, though.
Dr. Grodstein sums up: Continue reading