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Women make up two-thirds of all Alzheimer’s cases and it’s the only neurological disorder affecting women more than men. Some may say it’s because women live longer but a growing body of scientific research says it’s the female hormone estrogen that may be to blame.
The associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Lisa Mosconi, is on video conference and explains it is menopause that she believes puts women at higher risk for the disease. She says estrogen literally shields the brain from harm so as women lose estrogen the brain becomes more vulnerable to aging and diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Mosconi did a few studies on this and she used brain scans to examine the brains of both men and women who were between 40 to 60 years old. She found the scans of men were fine but with women, those who were in perimenopause (almost at menopause), their brains showed energy declines of up to 30% and a drop in energy activity goes down even more in women who are post-menopausal.
Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra asks what Dr. Mosconi’s thoughts are on hormone replacement therapy to protect women’s brains. Dr. Mosconi says starting this therapy after menopause is not helpful and can actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. However, starting the therapy before menopause or within a couple of years after menopause seems to be beneficial and protective against Alzheimer’s as well as heart disease and stroke.
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If not ready for medical hormone therapy there are natural ways to replete estrogen levels. Estrogen can be found in plant-based foods such as:
- Sesame seeds
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
Dr. Mosconi adds that women need antioxidants from vitamins C and E as well as omega-3 fatty acids. As The Doctors always say, “let food be your medicine!” ER physician Dr. Travis notes that eating foods like the aforementioned are great because they not only protect just your brain, they also are good for cardiovascular health and the health of so many other parts of your body. Men, those foods will benefit you as well!