What You Need to Know About Hormone Therapy for Improving Memory

There are many causes of memory loss. Medications like anti-depressants and antihistamines can contribute, as well as excessive use of alcohol or drugs. Sleep deprivation can be a factor, along with depression, stress, stroke, or a blow to the head. But for many women between the ages of 40 and 55, memory loss can be an unwelcome symptom of peri-menopause along with hot flashes, night sweats, and fatigue. Hormone fluctuations at this stage of life are a likely culprit for what these women often refer to as “brain fog.”

  • For many women at the height of their careers, the seemingly inexplicable lack of focus, confusion, and forgetfulness can bring on anxiety, especially if they’re not aware of the root cause. 
  • And while men don’t experience symptoms to the same degree as women, a decline in testosterone production around this same time can bring about andropause, or “male menopause.” Feelings of diminished energy levels, stamina and mental function are common.

For both men and women, fear of dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s can lead them down a path filled with cognitive tests and medical examinations, when in fact, the cause could be simply fluctuating or decreasing hormone levels.

Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

Licensed psychologist, Claire Warga, PhD, has identified a range of brain-related symptoms associated with hormone imbalances, including:

  • Briefly forgetting how to do something you once knew
  • Briefly forgetting how to get to familiar places
  • Difficulty remembering names of people and places you know
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetting appointments or important events
  • Lack of focus and attention
  • Listening but not really hearing
  • Losing your train of thought
  • Short- and long-term memory inaccuracies
  • Trouble prioritizing
  • Using filler words to substitute for words you can’t remember, i.e., “what’s his name.”

How Hormones Affect Your Brain

A common misconception is that hormone functions are limited to affecting our sex drive. In fact, hormones such as estrogens, testosterone, thyroid and pregnenolone, do much more.

  • Estrogens: Estrogens have a profound impact on the brain health of both men and women. They promote networking between brain cells, increase levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters, foster feelings of well-being, encourage nerve growth, prevent brain damage by reducing inflammation and promoting brain cell repair, and help brain vibrancy by increasing blood flow to the brain.
  • Pregnenolone: Typically referred to as “the memory hormone,” pregnenolone works to clarify thinking, improve concentration, and prevent memory loss. It is the most abundant hormone in the brain. As a foundational hormone to many other hormones, lack of pregnenolone can have an impact on the production of other hormones.
  • Testosterone: For both genders, testosterone strengthens muscles, arteries, and nerves, including those in the brain. The lack of testosterone can result in weakening of the brain arteries leading to an increased risk of blood clots and stroke, and the stiffening of other, which increases the risk of high blood pressure and cerebral hemorrhage. Memory suffers when the arteries are damaged by the lack of oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
  • Thyroid: When thyroid levels decline, the blood flow in the brain slows, resulting in less oxygen and fewer nutrients reaching brain cells. Thyroid hormone therapy increases blood flow to and throughout the brain, which results in clearer thinking and better memory.

Can Hormone Therapy Help Improve Memory?

Studies involving women indicate improvement in memory via hormone therapy (HT) depends upon the woman’s age and the timing of HT initiation. The “Critical Window Theory” states that when administered at or around the time of menopause, HT may result in improved memory and function of the hippocampus, associated mainly with memory, especially long-term memory.

Conversely, when HT is administered post-menopause, it has little effect and can even prove to be detrimental to a woman’s health, increasing risks for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

For men, there are a host of benefits that can be derived from hormone therapy, among them decreased brain aging, improved memory and intelligence, and decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Risks of Hormone Therapy

No medication or medical procedure is without risk. For the individual considering HT, the potential risks should be weighed against the benefits.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the largest clinical trial to date in which women received HT suggests an increased risk of:

  • Blood clots
  • Breast cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stoke

However, women who had previously undergone a hysterectomy found no increased risk of breast cancer or heart disease. Yet, when HT is taken for more than a few years, the risk of breast cancer increases.

Other variables that impact risk for women include the types of hormones administered and in what combination with others; a woman’s age at the time of HT; a woman’s age at the time of menopause onset; the dose and type of estrogen administered; and other health risks already present at the time of HT, such as family medical history, heart disease, or cancer.

For men, the risks associated with HT range from minor to serious. Minor risks include:

  • Acne
  • Fluid retention
  • Increased urination
  • Muscle pain

More serious side effects may include:

  • Blood clots
  • Chest pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Infertility
  • Worsening sleep apnea

Can Hormone Therapy Help You?

There’s substantial evidence that hormone therapy can lead to both improved cognitive function and enhanced memory for both women and men. If you struggle with “brain fog,” lack of focus, reduced ability to concentrate, are easily distracted or have trouble prioritizing, Hormone Therapy may be the solution for you.

To talk with a medical professional about Hormone Therapy and find out if it could benefit you, contact the medical team at Balance Hormone Center.