Short-term Memory Loss

Post image for Study Says Estrogen Therapy Protects Against Dementia

Well, the title of the study actually said that estrogen “supplements” may protect against dementia. But, given that the study is published in the journal of Neurobiology of Aging referencing a doctoral thesis of a Norwegian doctoral student, we will overlook the nomenclature and focus on the findings of the study instead. Shall we?

Facts About Dementia

  • Globally one person is affected by dementia every 4 seconds
  • In 2010, 36 million people were estimated to have dementia (this statistic did not state globally)
  • Almost 2/3’s of Americans with Alzheimer’s (the leading cause of dementia) are women
  • In the top 10 causes of death, it is the only one which cannot slowed, cured, or prevented
  • Alzheimer’s cause of dementia is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States

Dementia is not something I wish to face as I age.  In my private prayer life when I’m pouring my heart and soul out to God, I always ask that I am spared from dementia. Even if I’m hobbling around with a cane or a walker. Heck, even a wheelchair.  Just let me keep my mental faculties!

I’m fortunate enough to have a family health history which does not include dementia.  Many of my uncles, aunts, and a grandparent, lived extraordinarily long lives with none of them suffering from any issues with dementia. For that, I’m grateful. I’m also grateful to have a knowledge of the benefits of estrogen therapy and brain health.

estrogen

When I first began blogging and writing about perimenopause symptoms associated with hormone imbalance issues, I thought of estrogen as the devil.  Most of the research I read during that time (the late 2000s) emphasized the perils of estrogen dominance.  And it’s true, estrogen dominance can make your life miserable during perimenopause.  But, I’ve learned a lot since then on the benefits of estrogen therapy during perimenopause and even menopause, and so, I’ve definitely come full circle.

As Women Our Bodies Need Estrogen

It has only made logical sense to me that if balanced hormone levels before perimenopause and menopause (which included, by the way, estrogen) made me healthy and fit as a woman.  Then losing estrogen in perimenopause and menopause can’t be good for me.

There is most definitely a school of thought out there which embraces the natural approach to aging, and says that losing estrogen as we age is the natural course of life.  Yeah, okay.  I can see that argument.  But who do you know that wants to get old?  And furthermore, who also do you know that wants to die?

I see the loss of estrogen and progesterone through the process of reaching menopause as surely natural.  But, it’s a natural course all the way to death. And while I’m not delusional in believing that if I just use estrogen therapy for the rest of my life I won’t die.  I do believe that estrogen therapy can and does provide an entire host of benefits for women both in perimenopause and menopause. And now, the doctoral student at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology agrees with me.

Estrogen Loss Shrinks Brain Tissue

This study looked at MRI’s of a sample size of 80 women who used estrogen therapy (or supplements as they call it) through menopause, and compared them to 80 women who had never used estrogen “supplements.”  The women who had used estrogen therapy showed a larger hippocampus area in their brain than those women who did not use estrogen.

The hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and sense of place, is one of the first structures of the brain which is affected early in the development of Alzheimer’s induced dementia. The researchers also studied any change in shape to the hippocampus as a result of estrogen therapy and did see the shape of the hippocampus was affected as well.

Essentially, researchers concluded that an increase in brain volume preserves the area of the brain susceptible to Alzhiemer’s – the hippocampus.  And that given the fact that estrogen seems to increase the size of the hippocampus, then there seems to be a connection between estrogen therapy and reducing the risk of dementia.

The study also noted that estrogen taken by women in Europe is different from the estrogen taken by women in the United States.  Unfortunately, it did not state exactly what those differences are.  Kind of an important distinction if you ask me.  But, nevertheless, they didn’t identify those differences.

Estrogen Therapy May Not Be For You

I am very aware that not every woman is comfortable with using hormone therapy during perimenopause.  I am also very aware that many women are strongly advised against using it due to a family history of breast cancer and other health issues which might be exacerbated by estrogen.

hormone (480x300)

As a woman who has many risk factors which are supposedly associated with estrogen therapy, I am mindful myself that as I age (I am currently 59), I may have to change my use of estrogen as well.  However, I am convinced at this point in my research and writing career, that estrogen is far more beneficial than it is harmful for women.  And I’m always glad to see that as medicine continues to research and study the benefits/risk of estrogen, that my beliefs about estrogen are generally born out.

This study was accessed from ScienceDaily.com.  However, because links sometimes become inactive, I’m also including a PDF copy of the study which you can download here.  

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Sources:

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (2016, January 22). Estrogen supplements may protect against dementia.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160122083802.htm

2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Retrieved March 1, 2016 from http://www.alz.org/facts/

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