The importance of estrogen
Hormones are chemical messengers your body naturally releases into the bloodstream to regulate function by interacting with specific receptors. Contrary to popular belief, the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone aren’t just for your reproductive system. Estrogen alone serves more than 400 important functions in the body.
As women age, the natural decline in hormones can have negative effects on health, memory, sexual function and more. Symptoms of estrogen deficiency may include:
- Hot flashes
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Sleep disruption
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Memory loss
- Urinary incontinence
Estrogen increases blood flow and metabolic rate, regulates body temperature, helps maintain muscles, improves skin health, helps maintain memory, increases sexual interest and reduces risk of depression and anxiety.
The benefits of balanced hormones
The hormone progesterone helps normalize the thyroid, restore libido, prevent bone loss and protect against cancer. It also helps balance the effects of estrogen at a tissue level. One hormone isn’t necessarily more important than another—the two hormones work best when balanced together. An excess of estrogen may also result in undesirable symptoms.
The link between hormones and cognitive decline
Two-thirds of clinically diagnosed cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are women, according to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The book The XX Brain looks into how women’s brains age distinctly from men’s—due mostly to the decline of a key brain-protective hormone, estrogen. Research increasingly suggests that changes in hormone levels during aging and menopause can cause neuropathological changes in the brain that put women at higher risk of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Hormone therapy for aging women
When women stop ovulating and hormones begins to wane, doctors may recommend hormone substitution therapy (HST) using either synthetic hormones or bioidentical hormones. While synthetic hormones mimic some of the actions of the human body’s natural hormones, they are made up of different molecular structures that may not produce the same physiological response as natural hormones. Bioidentical hormone preparations are the exact chemical match to hormones created naturally by the human body.
For women nearing menopause or who are post-menopause, focusing on eating a hormone-balancing diet or starting estrogen-progesterone replacement therapy can bring a host of potential health benefits, including improved brain health. However, before making any medical decisions, we recommend talking to your doctor about the benefits and potential risks.
The XX Brain by Dr. Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D.
The End of Alzheimer’s by Dale E. Bredesen, M.D.