Estrogen replacement patches. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Postmenopausal women have heard just about everything when it comes to hormone therapy. In the 1990s, doctors routinely recommended it, believing that it helped women avoid heart attacks, thinning bones and other problems of aging. Then along came the Women’s Health Initiative study, which first found hormone therapy (HT) created more risks than benefits — then found that over time some of those risks subsided, at least somewhat.
“It’s a very provocative finding, without a doubt.”
But one main criticism of the Women’s Health Initiative study was that women were recruited to start on hormone therapy long after they had gone through menopause. The women were ages 65 or older.
Today, many doctors believe that HT started at the time of menopause — or soon after — can help women with hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms.
So maybe that headline needs a bit of clarification: This new research has to do with postmenopausal women and their levels of estrogen. (Still, if you’re a pre-menopausal woman, you should read this, too. Men, if you know any women, please read on.)
After a woman goes through menopause, her estrogen levels drop. This study, led by a Stanford School of Medicine researcher, was the first to look at associations between estrogen decline and cognition — both in women who went through menopause more recently (less than 6 years) and longer ago (more than 10 years). The research team wanted to know if the time from menopause made a difference in cognitive ability. And so we return to the headline: They found no connection.
“There were no differences between women close to the time of menopause and further from the time of menopause,” said Stanford neurologist Victor Henderson, lead author of the study. The women were given a battery of neurological tests, not just “a short screening instrument,” the authors wrote. Continue reading