New research suggests hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be able to delay the onset of dementia for millions of women.
Scientists have discovered one in five females carry a gene that speeds up the ageing of DNA by up to four times, making them more susceptible to age-related diseases such as dementia.
However, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have found evidence to suggest HRT can protect the DNA and slow this process.
Dr Natalie Rasgon, who led the study, explained how the gene can cause ageing at a cellular level before outward symptoms begin to develop.
"Yet oestrogen appears to have a protective effect for middle-aged women who are carrying this genetic risk factor," she added.
HRT is usually prescribed to women who are going through the menopause to prevent hot flushes and mood swings, though it is also known to protect bones. Recent studies have indicated it may be able to reduce the risk of heart attacks in women in their fifties.
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