Neuroprotection via Reduction in Stress: Altered Menstrual Patterns as a Marker for Stress and Implications for Long-Term Neurologic Health in Women

Prokai, David; Berga, Sarah L.
December 2016
International Journal of Molecular Sciences;Dec2016, Vol. 17 Issue 12, p2147
Academic Journal
Individuals under chronic psychological stress can be difficult to identify clinically. There is often no outwardly visible phenotype. Chronic stress of sufficient magnitude not only impacts reproductive function, but also concomitantly elicits a constellation of neuroendocrine changes that may accelerate aging in general and brain aging in particular. Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, a phenotypically recognizable form of stress, is due to stress-induced suppression of endogenous gonadotropin-releasing hormone secretion. Reversal of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea includes restoration of ovulatory ovarian function and fertility and amelioration of hypercortisolism and hypothyroidism. Taken together, recovery from functional hypothalamic amenorrhea putatively offers neuroprotection and ameliorates stress-induced premature brain aging and possibly syndromic Alzheimer's disease. Amenorrhea may be viewed as a sentinel indicator of stress. Hypothalamic hypogonadism is less clinically evident in men and the diagnosis is difficult to establish. Whether there are other sex differences in the impact of stress on brain aging remains to be better investigated, but it is likely that both low estradiol from stress-induced anovulation and low testosterone from stress-induced hypogonadism compromise brain health.


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