Medical scientists have already shown that estrogen plays an important, protective role in brain processes. Loss of estrogen during menopause may cause cognitive deterioration (sometimes experienced as memory lapses), which can be even more severe as a result of surgically induced menopause.
Drs. Henderson and Sherwin examined the problem by performing evidence-based research and consulting the results of hormone-therapy trials. The doctors concluded that while natural menopause may not necessarily be associated with cerebral degeneration, women who undergo surgical menopause suffer more often from mental decline, such as memory lapses, notably in the area of “verbal episodic memory.”
The risk for cerebral deterioration and acute neurological conditions is even greater for women who have undergone surgical menopause at a younger age, concludes a recent article published in Science News. Dr. Walter Rocca from the Mayo clinic led a team of doctors in a study of women who had undergone surgical ovary removal, or oophorectomy, during the years of 1950 to 1987.
676 of the subjects received entire oophorectomy, and 813 had the removal of one ovary. This group was compared with 1,471 “control” women who corresponded to the test subjects in age.
Interviews were conducted with the subjects and the controls to ascertain any diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, dementia or other neurological conditions, memory lapses, and/or deterioration in daily living.
150 of the subjects who had undergone partial or total ovary removal reported cerebral impairment or dementia, as opposed to 98 women in the control group. Women who had oopherectomy before the age of 41 were also at a greater risk for ailments similar to Parkinson's disease (parkinsonism), which cause mental and physical impairment.
The risk of cerebral decline and neurological deficiency is age-related, the article determined. Women who receive surgical menopause at a younger age are at a much higher risk, although this may be alleviated by having estrogen replacement therapy. Rocca and his team thus conclude that estrogen may have a farther-reaching and more complex effect in the brain than previously suspected.
Young women faced with potential oophorectomy procedures should consult their doctors to address any fears about possible future cognitive deficiencies.