- Taking menopausal hormone therapy soon after menopause to relieve symptoms may benefit the brain.
- One form of menopausal hormonal therapy, taken soon after menopause may help preserve brain structure responsible for memory and thinking skills.
- Women who took estradiol hormone via a skin patch maintained brain volume in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that assists with memory and thinking
One form of menopausal hormonal therapy taken soon after menopause may help the brain maintain good memory finds a new study. The findings of this study are published in the Journal of Neurology
"We found that one form of menopausal hormone therapy
taken soon after menopause
may preserve brain structure in the portion of the brain responsible for memory and thinking skills," said study author Kejal Kantarci, MD, MS, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
‘Participants who took estradiol hormone via skin patches maintained a good brain volume in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that helps with memory, thinking, planning and reasoning.’
She also added, "It may also reduce the development of amyloid plaques that can build up and lead to memory loss
To test the results, researchers identified seventy five healthy women with an average age of fifty three who were between five months to three years past menopause to participate in the study.
Of those Seventy five women, twenty women took conjugated equine estrogen hormone in pill form, twenty two received estradiol hormone via a skin patch, and thirty three received a placebo of either pills or patches.
Also, the women taking active hormones were also given progesterone pills for the first twelve days each month, and placebo pills were given to those in the placebo group.
At the start of the study, the participants were given both Memory and Thinking tests as well as an MRI at 18 months, at three years and at the end of four years of hormone treatment and gain three years after the hormonal therapy ended.
Researchers measured overall brain volume and the accumulation of brain lesions and compared scores on thinking and memory tests.
The researchers also measured both overall brain volume, brain lesions accumulation, and after that, they compared the scores on both the thinking and memory tests.
Sixty eight women in the group also had a PET scan done to detect beta amyloid plaques in the brain that are related to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.
They also found that the participants who took estradiol hormone via skin patches maintained a good brain volume in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that helps with memory, thinking, planning and reasoning, over the seven years of the study.
Women who maintained a good volume in this area of the brain were more likely to have low amyloid plaque deposits.
These amyloid plaque deposits are important because they are directly related to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. This suggests that estradiol therapy may have long-term effects on the brain.
They also found that for those taking estrogen pills, there were greater structural changes in the brain during therapy.
But those changes stopped when participants stopped taking the pills. The scores on thinking and memory tests were similar for women in the hormone therapy groups and those taking a placebo.
"More research is needed to determine the biological reasons behind brain changes during menopausal hormone therapy," said Kantarci.
"Future research is also needed to define better just how the different hormonal products, pills versus skin patches, affect the brain," said Kantarci.
Since all the participants were in a good cardiovascular condition, the results may not be similar for those with heart problems or diabetes. This is considered to be the limitation of this study.