Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain that impairs speech, motor skills and is characterized by muscular rigidity and tremor. It occurs across all ethnic groups, but is found in men more than women.
Data from the Women’s Health Initiative showed that a longer exposure of natural hormones may protect women from Parkinson’s. Perhaps this is why this disease is more often diagnosed in men than women.
According to lead investigator Rachel Saunders-Pullman, MD, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx and the Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York, “Hormonal factors do play a role in changing the risk of Parkinson’s,” “But hormone therapy does not appear to be beneficial in reducing this risk,”
In other words, the more years that women have natural estrogen in their bodies from their first menstruation through menopause, the lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. The researchers conclude there could be an endogenous estrogen factor and that this is having a neuro-protective effect on women.
Researchers also found that women who had 4 or more pregnancies were about 20% more likely to develop the disease than women with fewer pregnancies.
The same thing holds true for women who had surgical menopause (those needing to have their uterus and ovaries removed due to bleeding, endometriosis, etc). These women had almost twice the risk, even if they started on hormone replacement therapy. So, taking hormones reportedly did not have any effect on Parkinson’s risk.
The bottom line: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should not be started or continued with the intention of altering the risk for Parkinson’s disease. That doesn’t mean you should stop HRT, but women should not expect a reduced risk of this disease if they stay on hormones.
There are lots of benefits of being on HRT and those risks and benefits should be individualized for each women and discussed with their practitioner.
American Academy of Neurology 61st Annual Meeting. Released February 25, 2009.