Facts about Hormone Therapy Causing Dementia

by Garreth Myers

Till a short while ago, several post-menopausal women used to take estrogen as a part of hormone therapy, to maintain the health of the brain. Estrogen was also used to prevent the chances of breast cancer and to reduce the risks of heart diseases. It was quite common for women to take hormones, so that they could deal with hot flashes caused by menopause as well as the other ailments associated with the aging process. Hormone therapy can be very effective if adopted by younger women or women who have just started going through the stages of menopause, since the replacement hormones preserve the circulation of blood in the brain. Research shows that estrogen has a favorable affect on cognitive functions and therefore it is required to maintain the proper functioning of the brain, in women. However, recent studies have indicated that hormone replacement therapy can in fact shrink the size of the brain and increase the risks of breast cancer, blood clots, strokes and heart attacks in women, who are over the age of 65. Hence, unless older women suffer from vaginal atrophy or intense hot flashes that cannot be controlled in any other way, they are now advised to avoid hormone therapy, which should only be used for short-term relief from such symptoms.

Dementia is a mental ailment, where all aspects of the brain functions are gradually impaired. It is characterized by memory loss, difficulty in performing day-to-day activities and behavior & personality changes. Taking estrogen as a part of the hormone therapy can be linked to dementia in two ways. Women who are below the ages of 60 could reduce their risks of dementia by less than half, by taking hormones, as compared to other women who don’t use hormone therapy. However, studies indicated that this has the opposite affect on women over the ages of 65. The risks of dementia (especially Alzheimer’s disease) were increased in older women, by about 75%, for those who went through combined hormone therapy, which included the use of estrogen and progestin. Reports state that starting even an estrogen alone hormone therapy after the age of 65 can show a negative effect on the overall cognitive ability in women. This negative effect could be much higher in women who already have cognitive problems.

Therefore any woman who is considering hormone therapy should consult a doctor about the possible side effects that it may have on her, since the results may differ from person to person, based on factors like age, the use of medication in the past and medical condition.

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