Estrogenic hormones are responsible for the growth and development of female sexual characteristics and reproduction in men and women. In women, estrogen circulates in the bloodstream and binds to estrogen receptors on cells in targeted tissues. Estrogen can have an impact on many parts of the body including; the breasts, the uterus, the brain, bones, the liver, the heart and other tissues.
The ovaries are the source of estrogen and progesterone. During menopause, there is a decrease in the number of ovarian follicles and they becomes less responsive to the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). As ovarian age increases, fewer hormones are released, FSH and LH can no longer adequately perform their role of regulating estrogen.
So what impact does decreased estrogen levels have during menopause?
Brain and Nervous System
Estrogen depletion can result in a number of symptoms commonly associated with menopause including; mood swings, memory loss, problems focusing, irritability, fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, stress, anxiety and depression. Research also suggests that estrogen depletion may be linked to development of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Estrogen has known to reduce bone loss. Through resorption and deposition the body constantly builds and remodels bones however with age the body stops making more new bones than in breaks down when estrogen levels drop. As a result in the years immediately after menopause, women may lose as much as 20% of their bone mass. For 5-10 years after menopause, this bone density loss accelerates into a gradual weakening of your bones and can lead to an increase in the risk for fractures and other injuries.
Low levels of estrogen can also result in vaginal atrophy leading to the narrowing of a women’s vagina which also decreases flexibility.
Due to estrogen depletion, women are put at an increased risk for cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks, strokes, or other heart-related problems.
The reduction of estrogen at menopause decreases the water-holding ability and elasticity in the skin, leading to dryness, itching, and an increase in wrinkling and sagging. Skin also becomes more susceptible to injury, such as bruising.
With all these conditions occurring as a result of reduced estrogen levels, it is clear that estrogen therapy is an important considerations for menopausal women.