These Women May Have A Greater Risk For Dementia, New Study Finds

mbg Contributor By Caroline Muggia
mbg Contributor
Caroline Muggia is a writer, environmental advocate, and registered yoga teacher (E-RYT) with a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College.
Distressed woman against colorful background

Image by Diane Villadsen / Stocksy

We're all about hormone and brain health and even better understanding the connection between the two. We know that women are more likely than men to develop dementia in their lifetime, and a new study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology suggests that shorter reproductive years and less exposure to the hormone estrogen could be a risk factor.

The research looked at women's reproductive years, the length of time between their first menstrual cycle and when they went through menopause, and whether or not they had a hysterectomy and compared this to the rate of dementia later in life.

They found that women who had their menstrual cycle at the age of 16 or later had a 23 percent increased risk of dementia than those who got their period at 13. As well as those who went through menopause before age 47 had a 19 percent increased risk of dementia compared to those who went through menopause at the same age or later.

What's happening?

"Our results show that less exposure to estrogen over the course of a lifetime is linked to an increased risk of dementia," said study author Paola Gilsanz, ScD, of Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, in a statement.

This finding comes on the heels of recent research that found a lack of estrogen could lead to difficulty making memories and building new neural pathways. The study points out that many factors can contribute to low estrogen including pregnancy and birth control, and more research is needed to account for these additional factors.

While we (usually) can't change natural processes such as the beginning or end of our reproductive years, there are some things we can do to protect our brains against dementia. Research shows that getting more sleep, exercising, and eating a balanced diet are all factors associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's (a common cause of dementia). By making lifestyle tweaks to protect our brain and balance our hormones, we can help diminish our chances of dementia and boost a variety of other health outcomes.

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