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Menopause Health Center

Estrogen Each Day May Keep Low Mood, Poor Memory Away

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"It's not clear what is causing this," Small says. "Estrogen has a lot of effects on the brain, and it certainly modulates [serotonin] function, so it could have something to do with that. But there could be some other factors related to these women that has nothing to do with estrogen."

Research also has suggested that ERT may prevent, or at least decrease the risk of, Alzheimer's disease. The National Institute on Aging is currently enrolling postmenopausal women in a three-year study to determine if estrogen therapy can prevent Alzheimer's in women with a family history of the disease. Physicians and patients can get more information on this trial, known as PREPARE, by visiting the institute's web site (www.delay-ad.org) or calling (877) DELAY-AD.

Estrogen is also being studied in women with established Alzheimer's dementia. Two trials showed mental improvements among women with dementia who were taking ERT. But a recent study in the Feb. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found no significant changes between the group of elderly women with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease that took the drug and those who did not.

Vital Information:

  • The female hormone estrogen, long known to help women prevent heart disease and maintain strong bones, may also help to boost women's mood and response to antidepressant drugs.
  • Researchers don't know why some postmenopausal women find psychological benefits when on estrogen therapy, and doctors still don't know how to identify which postmenopausal women would get these benefits from the hormone.
  • Scientists also are studying the possible benefits of using estrogen to fight Alzheimer's disease, both before it develops and after diagnosis. Preliminary results released last month showed estrogen therapy offered no significant help to patients who already had mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
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