Oestrogen seems to be good for older women’s brains

New American research has found that taking hormone therapy – medications that replace the female hormones no longer made by the body after menopause – could help improve cognition postmenopause.

The new study looked at more than 2,000 postmenopausal women and followed them over a 12-year period to investigate the link between the hormone oestrogen and cognitive decline.

The researchers analysed the women’s exposure to oestrogen by recording information such as the women’s age at menarche (a female’s first period), their age at menopause, the number of pregnancies, duration of breastfeeding and use of hormone therapy.

The findings, published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), showed that women who were exposed to oestrogen for a longer duration of time appeared to have better cognition.

In addition, those who started hormone therapy earlier had higher cognitive test scores than those who started taking hormones later.

Starting hormone therapy earlier also appeared to be particularly beneficial for the oldest women in the study.

It is already known that oestrogen is important for overall brain health and cognitive function, and with women making up two-thirds of the 5.5 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, it has been suggested that sex-specific factors such as oestrogen, could play a role in increasing a woman’s risk for the disease.

The new findings suggest that a longer reproductive window, complemented with hormone therapy, may benefit a woman’s cognition.

“Although the assessment of the risk-to-benefit balance of hormone therapy use is complicated and must be individualised, this study provides additional evidence for beneficial cognitive effects of hormone therapy, particularly when initiated early after menopause.

“This study also underscores the potential adverse effects of early oestrogen deprivation on cognitive health in the setting of premature or early menopause without adequate oestrogen replacement,” says NAMS medical director Dr Stephanie Faubion. – AFP Relaxnews


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