HRT and Alzheimer’s disease: do you need to worry?

When any woman goes through the menopause, HRT can act as a lifeline. Also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy, the treatment can help you avoid night sweats, mood swings, and insomnia. Since its introduction to the medical world, HRT has proved controversial. According to the latest research, there’s a link between HRT and Alzheimer’s disease.

Before you start panicking and abandoning your smooth journey through the menopause, you might want to scrutinize the latest evidence. With a closer analysis, it’s easy to see that HRT and Alzheimer’s don’t have a strong link.

What’s the link between HRT and Alzheimer’s disease?

The most recent study examined an impressive 170,000 women over a 14-year period. At first glance, it looks as though there’s a 9 to 10% increase of Alzheimer’s disease when you use HRT.

While examining the 170,000 women, the researchers took an observational approach to the link between HRT and Alzheimer’s disease. As it’s an observational study, it doesn’t exclude other causes. As you age, many of the other Alzheimer’s-causing risk factors will rise. For example, high blood pressure.

Because of this, although the research into the link between HRT and Alzheimer’s disease is robust on the numbers front, it doesn’t prove much. In contrast, some of the changes you may experience have a stronger potential link with the condition. For example, this study highlights how there’s a connection between stress and Alzheimer’s disease. Using some very rudimentary assumptions, this could mean it’s better to use HRT if evading Alzheimer’s is your primary goal and your menopausal symptoms leave you feeling stressed.

Is HRT risk-free?

Very few areas of medicine are entirely risk-free. HRT may increase your risk of blood clots. If you already fit into the breast cancer risk profile, your risk will increase further.

The good news is, any physician who doesn’t want to lose their license will screen you for significant risks. If they believe those risks are present, they won’t provide HRT. Instead, they may help you reduce those risks before placing you on the drugs. Or if it’s unlikely your risk profile will adjust, they’ll investigate other avenues.

If you’re worried about HRT and Alzheimer’s, are there any alternatives?

In an age of information, it’s easy to worry about issues such as HRT and Alzheimer’s. As such, you might want to learn more about the alternatives.

Doing nothing

The risks associated with not mitigating the symptoms of the menopause are minimal. How long it will last can vary between women. Some may experience symptoms for a matter of months while others will encounter them for a decade. If you feel as though doing nothing is something you can manage, it is an option.

Unique symptom management

Many women choose HRT because of the symptoms they’re encountering. If you’re concerned about HRT and Alzheimer’s, you could work with your physician to manage individual symptoms instead. Sleepless nights can benefit from medication, stress may reduce with CBT, and you could even focus your HVAC system on those hot flushes. Before you do use medications, though, explore their risks versus hormone replacement therapy.

Bio-identical hormone therapy (BHRT)

A growing number of physicians are prescribing Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT). It’s seen as a natural alternative to HRT and comes with fewer risks. Although the research for BHRT isn’t as strong as it is for HRT, it is growing.

In a nutshell, before letting the research into HRT and Alzheimer’s dictate your choices, be aware that the risks are not as high as the media is claiming.

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About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.