HRT and Dementia Risk in Women

An observational study led by NIHA Director Prof Anne-Marie Minihane and a team of researchers from the University of East Anglia (Dr Rasha Saleh, Prof Michael Hornberger) and the University of Edinburgh (Prof Craig Ritchie) aimed to establish whether there is a link between hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and Alzheimer’s disease among high-risk women.


The study looked at data from 1,178 women involved in the European Prevention of Alzheimer's Dementia initiative, which studies participants' brain health over time. All women who took part in the European initiative were over 50 and had no dementia diagnosis when joining it. This study then looked at results of cognitive tests and brain volumes as recorded by MRI scans. The publication was published in the Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy journal.

The results concluded that HRT could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in high-risk women who carry the APOE4 gene. The new, early, research found HRT, which can help control menopause symptoms, was associated with better memory and larger brain volumes for those with the gene.

Whilst the research concluded it was too early to say for sure whether HRT reduced dementia risk in women, the results highlighted its potential importance in the face of limited dementia treatments.

Speaking to the BBC on the results of the study, Prof Anne-Marie Minihane described them as a "very nice finding" that would encourage further studies.

“The next stage will be to go on to a clinical trial” she explained. "We'll recruit people who are E4 and non-E4, put women on HRT, follow them up, study them in quite a lot of detail, and hopefully that will provide us with a definitive answer as to whether HRT is a really effective therapy in women who carry this E4 gene."

She added: "The other major news I suppose was that the earlier the better - that HRT use seemed to be particularly beneficial in women who started it during the perimenopausal or early post-menopausal period."

The release of the publication triggered widespread media attention including headlines in The Times, The Guardian, interviews with Sky News, ITV Anglia News and coverage across the BBC network. The publication has led to an important resurgence in conversation around treatment options for dementia risk women and its findings will inform further research on the link between HRT and dementia risk women.


Prof Anne-Marie Minihane

Prof Michael Hornberger

Prof Craig Ritchie

Dr Rasha Saleh

See the full publication here: