The use of estrogen in menopausal and post-menopausal women continues to be a source of big debate in the scientific world. How should we go about treatment? Should we just prescribe it for a few years and then taper off? Should women just stay on it for the rest of their lives? Is there a “window of opportunity” for ideal starting times? And how does it affect other health challenges women face, like Alzheimer’s, which affects women far more than men? Could taking estrogen help slow down Alzheimer’s progression? Could it be responsible for reduced amyloid accumulation in the brain?
It is no surprise that “the jury is still out” (1) on whether or not estrogen could play a role in the development or reduction of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. But many researchers agree that it isn’t so much the presence of supplemental estrogen that’s important, but when it’s prescribed. At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference of 2015, estrogen therapy reportedly helped neurons in the brain and helped protect against the formation of amyloid accumulation. But women who didn’t start taking their hormones until age 65 had increased risk of dementia. The ones who had lowered risk of dementia started their hormones much earlier– closer to the onset of menopause.
There seems to be a critical “window of opportunity” where women will receive the highest benefits from starting estrogen therapy. We believe this window starts as close to the onset of menopause as possible (or immediately following a hysterectomy), and extends no more than a few years. Once you pass the “window of opportunity” you will still get relief from estrogen, but it may not do as much for your body as if you had started sooner.
Source: (1) Estrogen Therapy Could Hold Back Alzheimer’s, Shrink the Brain. http://www.alzforum.org/news/research-news/estrogen-therapy-could-hold-back-alzheimers-shrink-brain. Sept 3, 2015.