Information about Hormone Replacement Therapy and Dementia Risk

Initial evidence suggested that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen and progestin protected postmenopausal women against Alzheimer's disease. However, two studies reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the opposite.

The first found that women assigned to take HRT were actually more likely to experience significant cognitive decline than those taking a placebo (7 percent versus 5 percent). The second found that women taking HRT were twice as likely to develop dementia as those taking a placebo. Currently, experts recommend against taking HRT to prevent dementia. Moreover, a recent study suggested that estrogen therapy alone may carry the same risks.

Other Potential Memory Loss Prevention Agents

Some evidence suggests that testosterone injections can improve some aspects of memory in older, healthy men. Other compounds that are being tested to improve memory or to prevent or delay dementia include corticosteroid medications (such as prednisone), colchicine (commonly used to treat gout), nicotine, and investigational drugs designed to interfere with the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 09 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015