Estrogen and the Brain

Confused at Midlife: Clear Thinking About Estrogen Therapy and the Menopausal Brain

While normal aging itself can result in a decline of certain cognitive abilities, many women at midlife complain specifically of difficulties in maintaining focus and concentration - of feeling wooly-headed. But even those with younger and sharper minds are finding the information about estrogen therapy confusing.

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Some studies on hormone therapy indicate that estrogen supplementation can help boost brain power during the menopausal transition, when some aspects of cognition, particularly verbal memory, may begin to deteriorate. Other studies, particularly the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) published in 2004, find no benefit - and even some risk - associated with hormone replacement therapy.

A large randomized controlled trial of more than 7,000 women, WHIMS found that estrogen fails to protect against cognitive aging in women who begin treatment after age 65. While these sets of findings appear to be at odds with one another, taken together, they indicate that estrogen supplementation can have the greatest benefit if begun during a woman's transition into menopause - generally between the ages of 45 and 55 - rather than years after menstruation ceases.....McGill University

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