HRT linked to better memory in women

A type of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may protect memory for some women, according to the findings of a new study led by the University of Southern California (USC), US.

The new research has become the latest to indicate that HRT may offer women some benefits, which serves to further scientific discussions about the pros and cons of the menopausal treatment.

Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, study lead author and researcher at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, said: “Our study suggests that oestrogen treatment after menopause protects the memory that is needed for short-term cognitive tasks from the effects of stress.”

Previous studies have pointed out potential health risks associated with the treatment. The researchers explained that a combination therapy, which uses both oestrogen and progesterone, has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots.

The new study found that women taking oestrogen-only HRT had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and performed better on tests of ‘working memory’ after exposure to stress compared to women who had taken a placebo.

Working memory gives the brain the ability to keep information immediately available for processing, such as when a shopper uses a mental grocery list to pick up items. Various studies have found that stress can impair working memory.

In order to measure the effect of oestrogen therapy on working memory under stress, the researchers recruited 42 women with an average age of 66. Half of the postmenopausal women had been on oestradiol, a type of oestrogen therapy, for approximately five years, while the others had been given a placebo.

They found that after a stress test involving placing a hand in ice water, the women receiving oestrogen therapy had a smaller increase in cortisol and showed no decrease in working memory function.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801841875-ADNFCR