Estrogen could save your memory! We don’t want to overstate estrogen’s benefits, but seriously, it has gotten such a bad wrap over the years that it deserves our praise for this incredibly important function. Don’t we want to remember how great life is?
Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death. It’s estimated that 5.4 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and by mid-century, that number is expected to rise to 13.8 million. 1 Multiple scientific research studies have shown the positive effects that estrogen has on the female brain. We now have yet another newly released study called, The Cache County Study, 2 which supports this theory. Over two thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are female - not just because they live longer but because it’s more common in women at any age. Researchers have long theorized about the reason for this female predominance with loss of estrogen being one of the theories - along with genetic and biological differences. In the Cache County Study published in October of this year, over 2000 postmenopausal women were assessed for their cognitive status over 12 years. Results showed that older women who had had longer duration of estrogen exposure - through early menarche (start of the menstrual cycle), late menopause, and/or additional estrogen exposure with hormone replacement therapy - had better cognitive health compared with women with shorter estrogen exposure. Confirming the timing hypothesis, this study showed that women who initiated hormone therapy within 5 years of menopause had better results than women who delayed starting hormone therapy. While this study wasn’t specifically diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, it was looking for early decline in brain function that can be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
The Medical Director of the North American Menopause Society Dr. Stephanie Faubion states, “Although the assessment of the risk-to-benefit balance of hormone therapy use is complicated and must be individualized, 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 estrogen deprivation on cognitive health in the setting of premature or early menopause without adequate estrogen replacement.” Let’s not forget to educate ourselves about the benefits of our most powerful female hormone.
1. Alzheimer’s Association. 2016 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement 2016;12(4):459–509.
2. Matyi JM, Rattinger GB, Schwartz S, Buhusi M, Tschanz JT. Lifetime estrogen exposure and cognition in late life: the Cache County Study. Menopause 2019;