Getting forgetful and having difficulty with attention is a common complaint, especially in middle age. While many factors contribute to this, both men and women suffer from cognitive decline and memory lapses when they have low estrogen or testosterone hormones. Studies have indicated that the timing – younger vs. older age and type of hormone – bioidentical hormone replacement therapy vs. synthetic hormone replacement therapy makes a difference.
There is so much conflict in the literature due to the lack of attention to the fine details of studies. Many studies showed that postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy did not have a positive effect on memory and cognitive function. However, other studies showed a benefit. Why the conflict?
Conflicts arise in studies when you are comparing apples to oranges or natural hormone replacement with synthetic hormone replacement. They are not the same. Recent evidence suggests that the timing of hormone replacement therapy can make a significant difference. Giving hormones to someone who is older, in their 60’s or who already have symptoms may be too late. Once early signs of impairment have set in, hormone replacement therapy can have the opposite effect. However, if you catch something early and/or use preventive strategies, there is a better chance of preventing or reversing memory and cognitive function decline.
Female hormones effect on memory have been studied much more than male hormones because there has been much more controversy. Women’s hormones are much more complex as there are 3 forms of estrogen and CEE or conjugated equine estrogen, a synthetic hormone was used in far more studies than natural or bioidentical estradiol. Recent studies from the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) showed that natural hormone therapy given within the first few years that women enter menopause can improve the quality of life. There were no bad effects on memory or mood when taking Prometrium, a progesterone that is identical to that found in the ovaries in contrast to synthetic progestins that are often mistakenly called progesterone.
Mens’ hormones are less controversial than women’s hormones, hence the proliferation of ads for ‘Low T.” Positive associations have been found between testosterone levels and global cognition, memory, executive functions and spatial performance in observational studies. However, non-significant associations were also reported. Mens’ hormones studies have not shown that testosterone increases cancer or cardiovascular disease like the Women’s Health Initiative done on women whose average age was 63 and were given high doses of synthetic hormones.
Hormone replacement therapy studies in men and women and in animal models have shown a protective effect on preserving nerves and their transmission in the brain as well as decreasing protein deposits called amyloid or tau otherwise known as neurofibrillatory tangles. So beef up your brain function and if you feel some decline in your brain function, get your hormone levels tested and consider natural hormone replacement therapy. In addition, combining this with:
- Low refined carbohydrate and anti inflammatory diet (less meat, dairy and grains and more fish, nuts, seeds and vegetables),
- Decrease your toxic burden of chemicals, additives, preservative, herbicides, pesticides and mercury by eating free range organic meat, dairy and produce and wild caught fish
- Exerrcise to increase blood flow to the brain so vital nutrients get there
This is the winning formula for keeping your memory intact and brain functioning optimally.