A groundbreaking study, drawing from the health records of over 270,000 women, suggests a correlation between the duration of menstrual cycles and the likelihood of developing dementia later in life. Conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL), this study sheds light on the potential influence of hormonal factors on brain health.
According to the findings, women who experience longer reproductive spans, characterized by later onset of menstruation and delayed menopause, exhibit a reduced risk of dementia. Specifically, individuals menstruating for 34 to 37 years demonstrated a notable 28 percent decrease in dementia risk compared to those with shorter reproductive spans.
The study highlights the role of estrogen, the primary hormone associated with menstruation, in preserving cognitive function. Women commencing menstruation at age 15 or older displayed a 12 percent increased risk of dementia, while those undergoing menopause after age 50 exhibited a 24 percent decreased risk. Notably, hormone replacement therapy, which supplements estrogen post-menopause, did not appear to affect these associations.
Despite the study’s significant findings, there remains a lack of understanding regarding the precise mechanisms through which estrogen influences brain aging. Limited research on female brain health, coupled with conflicting results from previous studies, underscores the need for further investigation.
Of particular concern is the increased dementia risk associated with reproductive surgery, such as hysterectomy, especially when performed at a younger age. Researchers caution against unnecessary surgeries that result in abrupt decreases in estrogen exposure, emphasizing the importance of considering reproductive surgery as a potential risk factor for dementia in clinical practice.
While the study contributes valuable insights into the relationship between hormonal factors and dementia risk in women, more research is essential to elucidate these complex associations fully. Addressing the disproportionate prevalence of dementia among females and exploring potential interventions to mitigate this risk represent critical areas for future investigation. Experts advocate for prioritizing female-centric research efforts to advance our understanding of cognitive decline and improve brain health outcomes for all.
The study was published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.