Effects of Estrogen on Women’s Brain Health
One study found that high levels of estrogen throughout life reduced the risk of cerebrovascular disease and dementia in women.
According to a new study published in the September 27, 2023 online issue of the journal Neurology, women who have a “longer reproductive lifespan” or have given birth to multiple children are more susceptible to the effects of this hormone, resulting in a healthier state. brain.
This appears to lead to a reduced risk of cerebral small vessel disease, a condition that results from damage to small blood vessels in the brain and is associated with cognitive impairment and dementia.
The researchers analyzed 9,000 postmenopausal women with an average age of 64 years living in the United Kingdom.
Participants answered questions about reproductive health, including age at first period, when menopause began, and number of pregnancies.
Each also had a brain scan to look for cerebral small vessel disease by assessing white matter hyperintensity, which indicates damage to the white matter of the brain.
The researchers calculated lifetime hormone exposure by adding the number of years a woman was pregnant to her reproductive life expectancy, which is the number of years between her first menstruation and menopause. The average duration of exposure to hormones was 40 years.
Benefits of Hormone Exposure
The analysis found that people with higher lifetime hormone exposure had less white matter hyperintensity.
The team also found that taking oral contraceptives (HRT) did not appear to influence the benefits of pregnancy or reproductive lifespan.
“Our study highlights the critical role of reproductive history in shaping women’s brains across the lifespan,” said study author Kevin Whittingstall of the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada.
He added that the findings “underscore the need to incorporate reproductive history into the management of brain health in postmenopausal women.”
Previous studies have shown that the incidence of some diseases, such as small vessel disease in the brain, increases after menopause, often due to a lack of hormones.
Until now, it was unknown whether exposure to hormones before menopause extends the window of protection later.
A separate study published in 2021 found that women who were exposed to more estrogen throughout their lives had more gray matter in their brains.
Gray matter is a major component of the nervous system and is involved in sensory perception such as vision, hearing, memory, speech, and decision making.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York found that for every additional year a woman is exposed to estrogen, the average volume of gray matter in certain areas of the brain increases by 1%.
For every additional child born to a woman, the volume of gray matter increases by 2%.
These findings highlight the potential benefits of estrogen on women’s brain health, particularly in relation to reducing the risk of cerebrovascular disease, dementia, and cognitive impairment. Incorporating reproductive history into the management of brain health in postmenopausal women is crucial for better understanding and addressing these effects.
Source: Daily Mail