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Postmenopausal estrogen decline largely unrelated to changes in cognition, mood

Posted November 26, 2013

A new study led by a Stanford University School of Medicine researcher shows that decreased estrogen levels after menopause are largely unrelated to changes in cognitive ability and mood. It did find, however, a possible link between levels of another hormone—progesterone—and cognition among younger postmenopausal women.

The research is the first to investigate associations between sex hormones and cognition in both younger and older postmenopausal women, and to determine whether the hormones affect women differently based on their age and how much time has elapsed since they reached menopause.

The work helps clarify the role of hormones in age-related brain disturbances, lead author Victor Henderson, MD, professor of health research and policy and of neurology and neurological sciences, and his colleagues note in the study, which will be published online Nov. 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Estrogen, the main sex hormone for women, plays a crucial role in a woman’s reproductive cycle and overall health. After menopause, the depletion of ovarian follicles leads to a permanent reduction in a woman’s levels of estradiol (the predominant estrogen before menopause), estrone (the predominant estrogen after) and progesterone, another hormone involved in the menstrual cycle. Several studies have examined the association between hormone concentrations and cognition, but results have been inconsistent.

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