How Hormones, Cognition and Dementia Related to Each Other in Old Age?
According to the recent researches during aging there is increasing change in estrogen levels. This increases the risk for Alzheimer disease which is the most common type of dementia. There is a relation between hormones, cognition and dementia in old age. To improve cognition selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are used. Scientists have studied the genetic risk factors towards the effects of endogenous estrogen on aging and cognition. Sometimes dementia can be reduced by the way of injection and dose of selected hormones.
Among the age related dementia, Alzheimer disease (AD) is very common. This happens when there is a progressive deterioration of cognitive and functional skills. It has been observed that it starts during the middle age with many differences in behaviour manifestations. While diagnosis the doctor usually looks into the characteristic change in the pattern of the brain which includes atrophy, neuronal loss, the presence of extracellular plaques containing beta amyloid peptides and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles.
Changes in granulovacuolar cytoplasm present in the neocortical areas, hippocampus and other brain regions are also taken into account to study the pattern of dementia.In the normal maintenance of brain function the presence of estrogen is found to be very important. Loss of estrogens in the aging brain of both genders (women and men) plays a role in the cognitive declines associated with AD.
The Biological Roles of Estrogen in Neuroprotection
Estrogens are mainly female sex hormones which chemically are a group of steroid compounds. The production sites are the developing follicles in the ovaries, corpus luteum and the placenta. Estrogen interacts with different types of receptors like including ER-alpha, and ER-beta to get activated. These are expressed in the brain. In men, these are obtained via estradiol. The conversion rate of testosterone to estrogen is around 0.2%. Scientists have shown that estrogen has beneficial effects on the brain tissue.
It is estrogen that promotes the growth and survival of cholinergic neurons. It also promotes the nonamyloidogenic metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein. The role of estrogen in neuroprotection has come from epidemiologic studies of gender differences in risk for cognitive decline and dementia. Many times it has been seen that in the postmenopausal women who used estrogen-only or estrogen-progestogen hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) had lower levels of decline in cognitive function and had less risk of AD.Estrogen plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cognitive decline and risk for AD in both men and women.This area of study provides an opportunity to effectively intervene and treat dementia right in the beginning.
Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) was launched in 1991 which interviewed around 4,500 postmenopausal women and studied the effects of estrogen plus progestin HRT on the incidence of dementia and mild cognitive impairment. They found that HRT does not help in cognitive functions however at the same time it increased the risk of dementia in postmenopausal women over the age of 65.Therefore, it is possible that HRT when used after the age of 65 may reduce Alzheimer’s risk if treatment is initiated during the initial stages of menopause and then continued for 10 years.Along with estrogen the supplementation of progesterone is usually given in hormone replacement therapy.
The scientists from Pike’s group have reported in the Journal of Neuroscience that progesterone has only limited benefit in mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms if it is taken alone. It has also been found out that giving a constant dose of progesterone may antagonize a lot of the beneficial effects of estrogen. Progesterone is helpful to counteract the increased risk of endometrial cancer from estrogen therapy and for this reason the women are suggested to receive both hormones.In postmenopausal women depletion of estrogen is a significant risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the effects of progesterone both alone and in combination with estrogen on AD neuropathology is complicated and needs many more studies.
In a study done in mice suggests that estrogen and progesterone independently and interactively regulate AD-like neuropathology and suggest that an optimized hormone therapy may be useful in reducing the risk of AD in postmenopausal women. Another important hormone is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that regulates communication between brain cells. In a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimagingthe scientists have found out that the older adults who had lower levels of GABA in the frontal lobes of their brain (the part that handles complex cognitive functioning) had lower levels of cognitive activity. It is though possible to boost the production of GABA, estrogen and other important hormones to help keep your brain healthy.
How to Manage Your Hormones for Better Brain Health
Two important things one can do to prevent diminishing hormones, especially diminishing estrogen, are. . .
(1) Keep stress under control
(2) Maintain a healthy diet.
Excess stress contributes to in running cortisol in our body, which could essentially corrode the organs and neurotransmitters, making one vulnerable to disease and dementia. A healthy diet of whole foods and nutrients can actually boost hormone production, increasing the natural defences of the body. Foods which could increase the levels of estrogen are alfalfa, barley, baker’s yeast, beets, cherries,chickpeas, carrots, celery, cucumbers, dates, fennel, oats, olivesand olive oil, papaya, peas, plums, pomegranates, potatoes,beans, rhubarb, rice, tomatoes, wheatand yams. Apart from this every day walking, yoga, good sleep,healthy fats and raw organic cacao and being aware of the actions are some of the things which may help in increasing the GABA production.
These are easy steps one could do to counter the natural decrease in hormones with age. We can’t turn back the clock, however we can move forward with confidence without dementia by taking care of ourselves that will keep us healthy longer.