Hormone Therapy May Be An Effective Preventive Treatment For Alzheimer's In Women

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She received a B.S. journalism and a B.A. in english literature from Boston University.
Portrait Of A Beautiful Mature Woman

Data shows that the rates of Alzheimer's disease (AD) are higher in women than men, and while that's partially due to women living longer—there's more to it than just that. Previous research has suggested that there may be a menopause–Alzheimer's connection to blame for the higher cases in women, but there have not been many studies that investigate how to manage that risk.

But now, an animal study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease has found that estrogen replacement may protect against the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease in women.

Breaking down the difference in Alzheimer's disease for men and women.

While the suggestion of hormone replacement for managing Alzheimer's in women was a main part of the study, the researchers also presented a wider variety of possible risk factors in assessing women's Alzheimer's risk.

These factors include age, reproductive stage, hormone levels, and the interplay with other risk factors—which is in line with findings from previous studies.

"Recent epidemiological studies showed that two-thirds of AD patients are women," explains co-lead investigator Elena Tamagno, Ph.D., from the Department of Neuroscience and Neuroscience Institute of the Cavalieri Ottolenghi Foundation (NICO) at the University of Torino in Italy, "and this fact cannot be attributed only to their higher life expectancy. The loss of estradiol might be one of the factors leading to declining cognitive function in women."

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How estrogen may help prevent and treat Alzheimer's.

In the animal trial, researchers found that estrogen replacement reversed the pathologizing of tau, the nerve cells that are affected in AD, through antioxidant activity. According to co-lead investigator Massimo Tabaton, M.D., from the Unit of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Genova in Italy, the "results suggest that an early postmenopausal estrogen replacement may be protective against AD."

The editor-in-chief of the journal, George Perry, Ph.D., further added that "Linking estrogen deficiency to the tau changes of AD provides the missing mechanistic link to the greater risk of AD in women and significantly suggests therapeutic avenues to reduce AD."

The bottom line.

While these results all suggest that estrogen may be key to helping manage Alzheimer's risk in women, further studies are necessary to see if the findings hold true in human subjects.

Even though clinical treatments for Alzheimer's and dementia remain limited, there are some expert-approved prevention steps you can take. Associate director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., suggests following a Mediterranean diet, drinking some (but not too much) coffee, and adopting a regular movement practice for optimal brain health.

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