I want to take HRT again at 71 to avoid dementia! written JENNI MURRAY
For so many years I was afraid of HRT and often warned others to be very careful before taking it. I was sitting in front of my breast cancer consultant in 2006 when I heard the words, “Are you taking HRT? “Yes,” I replied, “I’ve been taking it for ten years.” I was 46 and in perimenopause when I started.
“Stop that,” he said immediately. “Your cancer is an estrogen receptor, so it’s not safe for you to take it.”
I am now 71 and have read all about the research described in Davina McCall’s latest documentary: Sex, Mind And The Menopause which aired on Channel 4 earlier this week.
Most interesting is the link that has been found between HRT and the prevention of diseases that scare my age group the most: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease.
Jenni Murray urges women to think about breast cancer risks with HRT. Jenni explores the links between HRT and the prevention of the diseases that scare her age group the most: Alzheimer’s, dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease
Research in the United States has shown that women who took HRT for six years or more were 79% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and 77% less likely to develop dementia, multiple sclerosis and the disease. Parkinson’s – the disease that destroyed the last years of my life. his mother’s life and caused her death at the age of 80.
Alright, I thought, maybe it’s not too late for me to go back to the medicine that had stopped the hot flashes, made my skin feel fresh and healthy, my hair thick and shiny, and had me bouncing back with a endless energy.
I was not, of course, going to insist on a prescription without doing my own research. Studies such as the one above, conducted on nearly 400,000 American women, cannot be completely trusted. Perhaps the women who had been able to afford HRT on the expensive US health service were well off, well fed and healthy.
Likewise, I never fully trusted research programs such as those conducted in New York and Arizona that argued that the menopausal brain might be better protected if HRT was prescribed earlier than common practice. I would like to know exactly who funded the research. Could the pharmaceutical companies have been involved, seeing huge profits to be made if every woman went crazy on HRT?
First, I spoke to the Mail’s brilliant generalist columnist Dr Martin Scurr, whose experience made him rather passionate about HRT as he saw the improvements in the lives of many of his patients. He saw no reason why a 70-year-old woman should be denied the drug and reminded me that Barbara Cartland did extremely well until her death at the age of 98.
According to him, age shouldn’t be an obstacle, but… breast cancer? Since 16 years have passed since my mastectomy without a recurrence, he thought it might be safe, but I would have to talk to my own doctor first.
Jenni (pictured) spoke to a number of health experts who said women over 70 had done well with HRT drugs But Menopause Matters founder Heather Currie said there was not strong enough evidence to recommend taking her to a dementia ward.
My own GP was unavailable (surprise, surprise!) so I contacted gynecologist and founder of Menopause Matters, Heather Currie. His analysis was that starting HRT early may be beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease, but the evidence is not strong enough to recommend taking HRT for this reason alone.
“The indications for taking HRT remain the same as before… symptoms due to early menopause or premature ovarian failure or for the treatment or prevention of osteoporosis. Also, it’s always controversial to take HRT after breast cancer,” she told me.
Third, I called Professor Nigel Bundred, the surgeon who had cared for me during my diagnosis, mastectomy and subsequent treatment for breast cancer. His view was that I should stay away from estrogen-only HRT as I still had my uterus. Even though I had been breast cancer free for years, there was a significant risk of endometrial cancer.
Combination HRT patches may be acceptable, but still carry risks. He didn’t encourage me to take the easy way out and protect my brain by popping a pill or a patch. “If I remember correctly,” he said, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with your brain and the best way for you to fight Alzheimer’s disease is to carry on as you are.”
“Maintain the weight, avoid too much red meat, try fasting once in a while on a low calorie diet and make sure to exercise. More importantly, keep the brain active. Use it, don’t lose it. There’s nothing against older women taking HRT, but not if breast cancer has been in the picture. No need to start all over again.
He is right. Maybe having taken HRT for ten years before cancer gave my brain a chance to be protected, but to discount the risk that the drug is linked to breast cancer is ridiculous and potentially dangerous.
There is no doubt that there should be no age limit for prescribing HRT. Baby boomers who feel they would benefit should discuss their case with their doctor.
But please think carefully. A mastectomy is no fun at all. So, this is me taking good old-fashioned doctor advice: diet, exercise, and keeping the brain going. Crossed fingers.
TV needs the queen of badness
Jenni says she understands why Anne Robinson, 77 (pictured), is looking forward to spending time in New York and with her grandchildren after leaving Countdown
I’m sorry to see that Anne Robinson is leaving Countdown after only one year. I love the Queen of Mean very much, but I can understand that at 77 she is looking forward to spending time in her apartment in New York and in the garden with her grandchildren. She is right, there should be older presenters. The men seem to survive on screen. Why can’t we see women who look like us on television; not stuck at home, gray with knitting needles and a cup of tea?
deputies? A ton of totally rotten apples
At least 56 MPs face allegations of sexual misconduct. It was nicknamed Pestminster, but Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng denied a culture of misogyny and said it was just a few “bad apples”. I think we’ve all heard that before.
Cressida Dick’s strength, the Met, logged 530 allegations between 2016 and 2020. The occasional ‘bad’ one was how she saw it. Parliament and the police – the men we should be able to trust. It’s not just “bad” or “a few”, it’s a ton of totally rotten apples.
- I will always be grateful for the intellectual rigor of my school, Barnsley Girls’ High in Yorkshire. The school unfortunately no longer exists and, says MP Jonathan Gullis, there is not a single grammar in the North East. To level up, you have to reintroduce grammars to give each child a chance.
When my refugees met my Russian neighbor
Jenni with Zoryana and Ustym. Jenni was nervous about Ukrainian refugee mother and son meeting her Russian neighbor
I was nervous getting out of the car the other day with my Ukrainian refugees Zoryana and Ustym because a few yards away on my quiet little London street was one of my favorite neighbors, Victor.
He’s the man I can always call for help with a DIY job and is a computer whiz. My anxiety was due to the fact that he and his wife, Masha, are Russian. Our meeting was inevitable. There was only one way to handle this potentially catastrophic encounter. I called ‘Hi’ to Victor. It seemed best to do a proper introduction.
I have no idea what they said to each other. They spoke Russian. There were handshakes – and smiles. In English, he told Zoryana that he was always there to help. I felt such relief – and I hope humanity will triumph in the end.