Testosterone improves memory in women

Manly, yes -- but ladies, you need it, too!

It's not Ivory Soap. It's testosterone, the so-called "manly" hormone -- and new research confirms it plays a critical role in healthy female aging.

That's especially in true in the brain, where testosterone is essential to thought, memory and overall brain function. (Men, feel free to mention that next time you're trying to win an argument with your wife -- then duck.)

Low levels of this hormone can lead to fuzzy thinking and even cognitive decline in men and women alike -- but in the new study, daily doses of a testosterone gel given to women were able to turn it around.

It made them smarter and sharper, with real improvements in thought and memory -- especially verbal learning, which is the ability to remember what you hear, as well as short-term memory.

Surprised? Don't be -- because women produce testosterone naturally in small amounts in the ovaries. When the ovaries stop broadcasting after menopause, those small amounts shrink to practically nothing.

But that doesn't mean you no longer need it.

You do, and you need it for more than just your memory -- because testosterone is so critical to cardiac function that low levels are a major-but-unadvertised cause of heart attack in women. (For more on the link between testosterone and heart health click here.)

That's why I routinely tested women for testosterone as well as estrogen back when I was in practice.

Other doctors thought I was nuts. Today, those tests are increasingly common.

If your own doc isn't with the program yet, find one who is -- and along with testing yourself, get your husband checked too. If he's getting up there in years, odds are he could use a boost -- and your doc could create a his-and-her hormone treatment program for the both of you.

Just make sure you don't mix the "his" with the "hers" as women need much lower doses -- and getting too much will give you a mustache, chest hair and a deep voice.

On the other hand, you'll almost certainly win more of the arguments.

I'm not done with hormones yet -- keep reading for the latest on men and estrogen!