Recent studies on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the U.S. show unnerving statistics; there are currently close to 5.7 million individuals with full-blown Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this will increase to a whopping 14 million, of which there will be twice as many women as men.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is an advanced form of dementia or memory loss that can diminish an individual’s ability to carry on a normal life. Though the memory loss may be mild at the onset, as the disease progresses, it can leave the individual incapable of even remembering his or her family, surroundings and everyday routines.
Research shows that though Alzheimer’s is considered a condition brought on by age, some people may show signs as early as in their 40s and 50s. Eight years is the average time an individual has once diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but an individual’s lifespan after diagnosis can range between four and 20 depending on overall health.
The most common symptom associated with Alzheimer’s is, of course, memory loss. But there are many aspects to it including mood changes, disorientation, struggle to find the right words to say, a difficulty of talking and even unnecessary suspicions and fears.
Estrogen and Dementia
Previous studies have made it clear that women stand a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s: Women aged 65 or older stand a one in six chance of developing the disease when compared to one in 11 men.
Though many believed this was due to the longer lifespan in women, newer studies link it to estrogen, progesterone and fertility — not the mere presence of the hormones but the major fluctuations that occur throughout different stages in a woman’s life.
Menopause is defined as the end of a woman’s fertile period and is often linked to symptoms like mood swings and hot flashes, which are caused by a fluctuation of estrogen levels. Estrogen may be useful in keeping a woman’s brain young, but its levels fall after menopause, making the brain more susceptible to cognitive decline and related conditions.
Recent studies have shown that women who begin menstruating earlier in life and enter menopause at a later-than-average age have a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Experts think that a woman entering menopause before the age of 45 might have a 28 percent higher risk of dementia. Another study conducted in California showed that women with three or more children had a 12 percent lower risk than those with one child.
Boost Estrogen and Reduce the Risk of Dementia
Until recent times, not many approved of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage the symptoms associated with menopause because some older studies linked it to an increased risk of heart disease and even certain types of cancer. But with recent developments, researchers are rethinking HRT for women in the premenopausal age.
Hormone therapy involving estrogen, when used at the right age, may prove beneficial. In some studies, women over 65 taking estrogen showed difficulty with cognitive functions, but on the other hand, it reduced the symptoms of menopause in women in their 50s.
Tips for Boosting Estrogen
Prevention is definitely better than cure because there is, unfortunately, no known cure for Alzheimer’s. Incorporating foods like soy, garlic, apricots, flax seeds, berries, citrus fruits, almonds and leafy greens could naturally boost estrogen and antioxidants. Combine that with regular exercise to help your body and brain function optimally for many years.
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What Is Alzheimer’s? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers
Mosconi, L. (2018, April 18). The Menopause-Alzheimer’s Connection. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/opinion/menopause-alzheimers-connection.html
Hamilton, J. (2018, July 23). Hormone Levels Likely Influence A Woman’s Risk Of Alzheimer’s, But How? Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/07/23/630688342/might-sex-hormones-help-protect-women-from-alzheimer-s-after-all-maybe
Lidicker, G. (2018, July 23). The Alzheimer’s-Estrogen Connection You Need To Know About. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/alzheimers-disease-estrogen-levels