Hormone therapy improves cognitive functioning in women

Long-term hormone therapy and exposure to estrogen is associated with improved cognition in women, a study has revealed.

According to the study involving more than 2,000 postmenopausal women, estrogen has a significant role in overall brain health and cognitive function, and administering the hormone in women during menopause can prevent cognitive decline as long suspected by health professionals in the US where women comprise two-thirds of the 5.5 million cases of Alzheimer's Disease.

The study findings published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), suggested women who initiated hormone therapy earlier showed higher cognitive test scores than those who started taking hormones later, providing some support for the critical window hypothesis of hormone therapy.

Women health
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Researchers focused on the duration of a woman's exposure to estrogen, taking into account such factors as time of menarche to menopause, number of pregnancies, duration of breastfeeding, and use of hormone therapy, to conclude that a longer duration of exposure to the hormone was associated with better cognitive status in older adult women.

"Although the assessment of the risk-to-benefit balance of hormone therapy use is complicated and must be individualized, the study provides additional evidence for beneficial cognitive effects of hormone therapy, particularly when initiated early after menopause, said NAMS medical director Dr. Stephanie Faubion.

He said the study underscored the potential adverse effects of early estrogen deprivation on cognitive health in the setting of premature or early menopause without adequate estrogen replacement.

Another study published in the same journal suggested that women who experienced night sweats were more vulnerable to cognitive dysfunction.

The study, even more surprisingly, found the same women experiencing night sweats were more vulnerable to prefrontal cortex deficits, including decreased attention and executive function.

"Studies like this are valuable in helping health care providers develop effective treatment options for menopausal women complaining of cognitive decline as they focus on modifiable risk factors," suggested Stephanie Faubion.