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Q: Does menopause have any impact on your memory?

A: The role of estrogen and postmenopausal hormone therapy in memory loss and Alzheimer disease has attracted considerable scientific and public interest. This becomes more important in the coming years since the elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population.

We do know that many women will experience problems with concentration and memory as they go through the menopause transition. These symptoms are linked to sleep loss and fluctuating hormones and not a permanent sign of aging.

We currently do not know enough overall to completely understand the role estrogen may play in maintaining memory and cognitive function in women.

Estrogen receptors have been identified throughout the brain and estrogen itself is known to stimulate neurons and their ability to communicate with each other. However, multiple studies have failed to show improvements in cognitive function and memory with estrogen therapy in post menopausal women.

When it comes to prevention of dementia and Alzheimer disease, some small earlier studies indicated there may be some benefit from taking estrogen replacement. Recent larger clinical trials such as The Women's Health Initiative showed that estrogen replacement did not prevent dementia in postmenopausal women. Therefore, there is currently no clinical role for estrogen or combined estrogen-progesterone postmenopausal hormone therapy for preserving memory or for the treatment of Alzheimer disease.

William Mitsos, M.D.

William Mitsos, M.D., McMurray OB/GYN Associates, can be reached at (724) 942-5420 or visit www.washingtonobgyn.net.


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