Estrogen Alzheimer’s Dilemma

By Janice Doyle :
It’s hard to know what to think when women are told to avoid taking estrogen for relief of menopausal hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and depression and then are told in new research that estrogen may potentially protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.

Estrogen influences language skills, mood, attention and a number of other functions in addition to memory. It does this when it activates certain sites which are beneficial to the brain. Estrogen also raises certain brain neurotransmitters which are implicated in memory, mood, motor coordination and other autonomic functions. You might say it is the system which allows the brain’s nerve cells to talk to each other.

So, yes, estrogen can influence certain functions of the brain, but only a doctor can evaluate what is happening with any one individual woman. However, studies have been conducted to try to determine whether estrogen could play a part in Alzheimer’s Disease.

An article in Progress in Neurobiology by Lydia DonCarlos, PhD detailed how estrogen “decreases the risk and delays the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, and may also enhance recovery from traumatic neurological injury such as stroke.”

According to the author, estrogen can protect against dementia and other neurological disorders by decreasing inflammatory responses and by enhancing cells’ ability to survive damage. It means the brain is protecting itself, since the brain normally makes neuroprotective estrodial in response to injury.

Previous widespread research published about ten years ago said that it’s risky taking estrogen plus progestin and that it increased women’s risks of heart disease, blood clots, stroke and breast cancer.

DonCarlos and other researchers are working to find ways to provide the benefits of estrogen without the risks. Until such agents are found, it is concluded, dementia and Alzheimer’s will not be treated with estrogen.

The author is a free lance writer and editor in Florida specializing in senior issues, relationships, healthy living and travel.

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