Women have a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) during their lifetime. Whereas for men, the risk is 1 in 11. Part of the reason for that higher risk is that women, on average, live several years longer than men.
But that factor doesn’t explain everything.
I had considered that AD, like breast cancer, must somehow also relate to a women’s lifetime exposure to sex hormones. And thankfully, a few new studies have started to explore my line of thinking.
I’ll tell you all about those new studies in a moment.
But first, let’s back up to discuss how the mainstream continues to chase old, failed theories about what causes AD…
Failed amyloid theory doesn’t hold water
The crony, corporatist, mainstream medical system continues to dither about “amyloid” as the main cause of AD in both men and women. For decades, it was widely thought that these microscopic, dense, neurofibrillary plaques and tangles led to the death of brain cells, resulting in dementia.
But recent studies have found that half the people diagnosed with dementia do not have amyloid in the brain. And—the other half of people who do have amyloid in the brain do not have dementia. So, that means amyloid is exactly useless in explaining or predicting dementia!
Plus, pathologists often find similar plaques in other tissues around the body besides in the brain!
So, at the most, these plaques seem to be a symptom of old age in some people…rather than the cause of AD. Furthermore, trying to thwart amyloid production is rather like “trying to lock the barn door after the horses got out.”
On the other hand, we know—with certainty—that more and more prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can cause short-term memory problems as well as long-term cognitive dysfunction, like dementia. Likewise, polypharmacy (taking many drugs at one time) is another major cause of cognitive dysfunction.
Of course, artificial hormones—such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—are potent “drugs” that too many doctors and patients may not think of as drugs.
But make no mistake, artificial hormones can and do cause serious side effects—including raising a women’s risk of developing breast cancer. And now, new research suggests they may also lower a woman’s cognitive function.
So, let’s take a look…
Unpacking a mixed bag of results
In this recent study, researchers followed about 2,000 women, ages 65 years and older, who lived in Utah, had similar ethnic and socioeconomic factors, and were free of dementia at the outset.
The women answered surveys about their lifetime hormone exposure—which included use of birth control pills as well as HRT following menopause. The researchers also calculated the women’s natural exposure to estrogen (based on age at menarche to age at menopause). Lastly, the women took standard cognitive function tests every four years during a 12-year follow-up period.
And here’s what they found…
The women who had more natural hormonal cycles in their lifetime had better cognitive function after 12 years. And on the flip side, early age at menopause (which means fewer normal, natural hormonal cycles) was associated with poorer cognitive function.
Which means, for one, that a woman’s natural hormone production serves to protect her from cognitive decline. And, likewise, fewer normal, natural cycles may promote cognitive decline.
But this finding is important in another way, too…
Just consider the millions of women who have had their reproductive organs surgically removed and, thus, have experienced an early, “surgically-induced menopause.” Then, often, these women are prescribed artificial hormones to replace their natural production.
Of course, many of these women probably also took birth control pills during reproductive years. So, they may have had even fewer natural cycles!
Unfortunately, the second big finding from this study left me scratching my head…
It found that women who took HRT had better cognitive function. Plus, the longer they took it, the stronger their cognitive performance. In addition, timing appeared to be a factor. In particular, women who started HRT within five years of menopause onset had better cognitive function than those who started it later.
But this finding just doesn’t add up…
If HRT does prevent dementia in postmenopausal women, as this small study suggests, why did dementia rates in women skyrocket so dramatically in recent years…following the widespread use of it in the 1980s and 1990s?
Furthermore, a previous, well-designed study did find a strong connection between HRT and dementia—as I reported last year. And that study followed almost 80 times as many women over a much longer period of time. It also had a control group (which the new study did not).
In the end, after looking closely at both of these new studies, I still recommend women play it safe and let Nature take its course. In other words, avoid taking HRT after menopause (or any type of artificial hormone)—because of its likely connection to AD and its clear connection to breast cancer.
Thankfully, women (and men!) have many other safe and effective approaches to prevent and reverse AD and dementia. You can learn all about these natural approaches in my comprehensive, online learning tool, my Complete Alzheimer’s Prevention and Repair Protocol. To learn more, or to enroll today, simply click here.
“Hormone Exposure and Risk for Dementia Later in Life,” Medscape, 1/8/20. (medscape.com/viewarticle/922602)
“Lifetime Estrogen Exposure and Cognition in Late Life: The Cache County Study,” Menopause, 12/26/19. 26(12):1366-1374. doi.org: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001405.