Objective: This study examined the effects of hormone-replacement therapy on memory and other cognitive abilities in cognitively intact older women.
Method: This prospective observational study in nondemented postmenopausal women aged 50-89 from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging involved study groups consisting of 103 women who were receiving oral or transdermal estrogen-replacement therapy (44 of whom were receiving adjuvant progesterone) and 81 women who had never received such therapy. Groups were naturally matched on education, health status, depressive symptoms, annual income, and general verbal ability. To restrict the study group to cognitively healthy women, prospective clinical data were used to exclude women who developed dementia up to 5 years after assessment. Data were cross-sectional. Multivariate analysis of variance and follow-up univariate analyses of variance were performed to compare those women who were receiving and those who had never received hormone-replacement therapy on measures of verbal memory, figural memory, mental rotations, attention, and working memory.
Results: The women receiving hormone-replacement therapy performed significantly better on measures of verbal learning and memory than did those who had never received hormones, but there were no significant differences in scores on other cognitive tests. Specific aspects of memory performance, including encoding and retrieval, were superior among the women receiving hormone therapy.
Conclusions: These findings, based on groups of women who were receiving and had never received hormone-replacement therapy and who were naturally matched on health and cognitive status, suggest that hormone-replacement therapy may have a selective beneficial effect on verbal memory in older nondemented women.