A new study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) demonstrates the benefits of extended oestrogen exposure and longer-term hormone therapy in battling cognitive decline.
Multiple studies have previously suggested a role for oestrogen in promoting memory and learning. In this study involving more than 2000 postmenopausal women, researchers followed participants over a 12-year period to examine the association between oestrogen and cognitive decline. More specifically, they focused on the duration of a woman’s exposure to oestrogen, taking into account such factors as time of menarche to menopause, number of pregnancies, duration of breastfeeding, and use of hormone therapy.
The researchers concluded that a longer duration of oestrogen exposure is associated with better cognitive status in older adult women. Furthermore, they documented that these beneficial effects are extended with the use of hormone therapy, especially in the oldest women in the sample. 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.
Study results appear in the article “Lifetime oestrogen exposure and cognition in late life: The Cache County Study.” “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 Dr Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.