The Estrogen Connection

Women of Baycrest Surprisingly little is known about sex differences and the aging process. While 70 per cent of all people newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are women, most animal research focuses on males. One reason offered for this disconnect is that female hormones – even in rats – are considered too complex to study.

“We’re just starting to unravel the secrets of estrogen – especially of beta estradiol, the predominant estrogen women produce during their reproductive years – and its impact on healthy physical and cognitive health in later life,” said presenter Dr. Gillian Einstein, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and The Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

For example, there’s evidence that the sharp drop in estrogen production triggered by menopause may cause memory problems. But studies also show that estrogen replacement after natural or surgical menopause improves women’s verbal and non-verbal memory.

While some perceive women’s changing hormone levels as problematic, Dr. Einstein sees it more positively. “As women, we’re constantly dealing with changes in our bodies. This may confer a type of resilience to our brains which men don’t have. This could explain why women recover more easily from stroke, for example.”

Because of the apparent link between ovarian function and brain connectivity, she believes women should keep their ovaries for as long as possible since even after menopause, they continue to secrete hormones which may be important to cognitive functioning.

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The Estrogen Connection
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