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In younger women, HT does not harm cognitive function

by Margery Gass | Jul 03, 2013
The WHIMSY trial released somewhat reassuring data last week:  for women ages 50 to 55, using hormone therapy (HT) will neither harm nor benefit their cognitive function.  WHIMSY examined 1,272 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) participants who were ages 50 to 55 when they began taking HT or placebo and reported on their cognitive health about 7.2 years after they stopped the medication.

In some ways, this data was disappointing, as it did not support the “window of opportunity” theory that taking HT close to menopause maintains and benefits health. However, this theory does have evidence of benefit regarding women’s risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.

Here at NAMS, we counsel that the decision of whether to take HT must be individualized for each woman, considering her overall health, severity of symptoms, quality-of-life priorities, and personal risk factors. We know that the risks of HT use in healthy women ages 50 to 59 are low. In older women, however, HT is associated with greater risks: A related WHI trial (WHIMS) found that HT use in women ages 65 to 79 caused a near doubling of rates of dementia, higher rates of cognitive decline over time, and decreased brain volume.

The bottom line of the new WHIMSY results is that younger women can be reassured that, if they choose to take HT for their symptoms, it will not harm their cognitive function or cause dementia.



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