Just yesterday I sent out a newsletter summarizing the recent research about the benefits of low dose hormones for women just entering menopause. I also complained a bit that the media seems to highlight the bad news but less often the good news. Well – here I go again. Well there is more interesting news about hormones that again emphasize the fact that TIMING is everything – and I almost missed seeing it!
Early this morning my husband showed me an article buried on page 12 of my local newspaper, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, titled Premenopause ovary removal tied to risks. As I am interested in everything related to women’s health I quickly read the article summarizing two studies published in the online edition of Neurology noting that premenopausal women who undergo surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) have an increased risk of developing neurological disorders, including cognitive decline, dementia, and parkinsonism. The earlier the age women have surgery and ovary removal, the more severe the neurological problems.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic observed a significant trend for increased risk of neurological problems with younger age at surgery, unless the women received estrogen replacement therapy until at least 50 years of age. The researchers also noted that the effect of estrogen was age-dependent and “suggests a critical age window for neuroprotection by estrogen”.
The studies are based on women in Olmsted County, Minnesota, who underwent ovary removal between 1950 and 1987, for a benign ovarian condition before the onset of menopause. In a second research study from Mayo Clinic the researchers also identified a significantly increased risk of parkinsonism for women who had one or both ovaries removed if the surgery was conducted before 41 years of age. These women were 75 percent more likely to have parkinsonism. (Parkinsonism refers to any condition that causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease which include tremor; stiffness of the arms, legs or trunk of the body; loss of facial expression; loss of control over movement; paralysis; and impaired mental processes (cognitive dysfunction). The researchers concluded, “These studies are among the first “to support the hypothesis of a critical age window for the protective effect of estrogen on the brain…in humans,” they add.
What the article didn’t discuss was the importance of estrogen therapy (no progestin is needed if your uterus is removed) in women who undergo early menopause (usually from surgical removal of ovaries but can occur from chemotherapy, radiation treatments and even autoimmune diseases). Without estrogen replacement there is also a high risk of progressive bone loss and osteoporosis as well as early or “premature” heart disease. Taking estrogen in the normal dose seems to prevent this increased risk.
So once again, if you are experiencing symptoms of menopause or you have had your ovaries removed, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about estrogen therapy. There are many ways to take estrogen to minimize side effects and risks.
I am not suggesting hormones to prevent heart disease in older women who have gone through menopause 10 years or more earlier. I am urging every woman not to be afraid to keep an open mind to the benefits and possible risks of hormones, learn what are the best ways to take hormones and then make the best decision for you along with your doctor.
To your health!