The risk of dementia in women could be reduced when women take oestrogen supplements before or at the start of the menopause and continue taking them for a few years. This conclusion is drawn from findings in a doctoral thesis from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In the corresponding study, brain MRIs of women who had been taking oestrogen supplements were compared to brain MRIs of women who had not been taking supplements. The results showed that women who took supplements throughout the menopause had a larger hippocampus. The hippocampus is known for being important for memory and sense of place, and is affected early in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The study emphasizes the need for starting supplement therapy early, preferably before or at the start of the menopause. Other studies have shown that taking oestrogen supplements after the menopause does not have such a protective effect on the hippocampus. Also, the supplements taken in those studies were different from supplements taken in this study. The author believes that the positive effects of oestrogen on the brain are plausible, but whether it prevents the development of Alzheimer’s disease is still unclear.
This article is especially interesting for doctors with female patients who have not started with the menopause yet, but are interested in (possibly) preventing dementia, or for anyone who is interested in neurology or biology.