Women in each group were randomly assigned to daily oral regimens of either estradiolthe main type of estrogen produced by women in their reproductive yearsor a placebo. look these upThe women who had not undergone hysterectomies were also given either progesterone vaginal gel or a placebo. In these women progesterone helped make the lining of the uterus thinner, mimicking the monthly bleeding of a menstrual cycle. Without progesterone, the lining is no longer shed and estrogen can cause an overgrowth of cells in the uterus, which can lead to cancer. Subjects received the hormones or placebos for an average of five years. Investigators tested the participants cognitive skills at the beginning of the treatment, after 2.5 years and then again after five years. Both groups improved in verbal memory testsbut some improvement had been expected because the subjects had gained practice taking the tests, Henderson says. What was surprising was that there was no sign of significant benefitor harmin taking the hormone therapy, no matter how soon after menopause the women had begun. Our results suggest that theres no reason for healthy women to consider taking hormone therapy to improve memory, regardless of their age, Henderson says. On the other hand, if women are considering taking hormone therapy for approved indications such as treatment of moderate-to-severe hot flashes and night sweats or for osteoporosis prevention, then they dont need to be overly concerned about negative effects of estrogen on memory. The results could offer reassurance to postmenopausal women, says Carey Gleason, a geriatrics and womens health specialist at the University of WisconsinMadison, who was not involved in the study.
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