Objective: Use of estrogen-based hormone therapy (HT) as a protection from cognitive decline and Alzheimer disease (AD) is controversial, although cumulative data support HT use when initiated close to menopause onset with estrogen formulations containing 17β-estradiol preferable to conjugated equine estrogen formulations. Little is known regarding specific populations of women who may derive benefit from HT.
Methods: Women with heightened risk for AD (aged 49-69), all of whom were taking HT for at least 1 year and most of whom initiated HT close to menopause onset, underwent cognitive assessment followed by randomization to continue or discontinue HT. Assessments were repeated at 2 years after randomization.
Results: Women who continued HT performed better on cognitive domains composed of measures of verbal memory and combined attention, working memory, and processing speed measures. Women who used 17β-estradiol versus conjugated equine estrogen, whether randomized to continue or discontinue HT, showed better verbal memory performance at the 2-year follow-up assessment. An interaction was also found with HT randomization and family history of AD in a first-degree relative. All female offspring of patients with AD declined in verbal memory; however, women who continued HT declined less than women who discontinued HT. Women without a first-degree relative with AD showed verbal memory improvement (likely because of practice effects) with continuance and declined with discontinuance of HT.
Conclusion: Continuation of HT use appears to protect cognition in women with heightened risk for AD when initiated close to menopause onset.
Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Hormone therapy; cognition; postmenopausal women.
Copyright © 2015 American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.