Women make up nearly two-thirds of the people who suffer from Alzheimer’s in the United States. They account for almost 4 million of the more than 6 million patients aged 65 and over who live with Alzheimer’s in the country; they also have a one-in-five risk of developing the neurological condition at 65. Researchers from Alzheimer’s Research UK have now discovered that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be able to lower women’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s in their lifetimes.
Past studies have determined that a gene called APOE4 may increase an individual’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In this new observational study, scientists sought to determine if HRT meant to alleviate menopause symptoms can also decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s. They found that hormone replacement therapy had an association with larger brain volumes and better memory scores for patients who carried the APOE4 gene and were more likely to develop dementia.
However, the researchers noted that it was still too early to conclusively state that HRT could effectively reduce Alzheimer’s risk in women. Their research was an observational study rather than a clinical trial, and it did not follow up on the women it studied to see if they developed dementia later on.
However, the researchers still said that their findings were encouraging and pointed to the potential importance of HRT in addressing mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s. The researchers, led by Norwich Medical School professor Anne-Marrie Minihane and professor Craig Ritchie from the University of Edinburgh, highlighted that more work was needed to understand the connection between hormone replacement therapy and brain changes.
The scientists examined data from more than 1,000 women who took part in an initiative to prevent Alzheimer’s dementia. All the participants were older than 50 years of age, and they had not been diagnosed with dementia before joining the initiative.
The team of investigators studied the MRI scans detailing patient brain volumes and cognitive test results. According to University of East Anglia professor Dr. Rasha Saleh, the team’s findings suggest that HRT had some association with “better memory and larger brain volumes” in APOE4 gene carriers. Saleh also stated that if the effects of HRT on dementia risk were studied in a clinical trial, they would be equal to a “brain age that was several years younger.”
Speaking during an interview, Minihane added that the study was a “very nice finding” and that the next stage of research was to begin clinical trials.
Many novel Alzheimer’s treatment approaches are being considered, and companies such as India Globalization Capital Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) are focusing on how cannabinoids can be tapped in the fight against this degenerative disease.
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