Premature menopause, before age 40, increases the risk of this serious disease in old age

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Elia Tabuenca García
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According to new research, women who enter menopause before age 40 have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Le women who enter menopause very early, before age 40, are more likely to develop dementia of any kind later in life than women starting menopause between the ages of 50 and 51. These are the results of the preliminary research published by the American Heart Association. (Read also: Menopause: Researchers discover the genetic secret to predicting it )

A systematic review

The study found that women who enter menopause very early are at increased risk of developing dementia; and being aware of this can help women implement strategies to prevent disease.

Dementia involves serious changes in the brain that impair the ability to remember, make decisions and use language. The Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, while the second is the vascular dementia, which is the result of interruptions in blood flow to brain cells, caused by stroke or plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to the brain.

In the present study, the researchers analyzed the potential relationship between age at the onset of menopause and the diagnosis of dementia. Data from 153.291 women who had an average age of 60 were examined.

Researchers have identified diagnoses for all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and dementia of other causes. They calculated the risk of onset in terms of the age at which women reported having entered menopause, compared to women who entered menopause at the average age of onset, which is between 50 and 51 years.

The results were adjusted for other factors, including age at last exam, race, level of education, cigarette and alcohol consumption, body mass index, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, income, leisure time, and physical activity. What they found is that the women who went through menopause before age 40 were 35% more likely to develop dementia; whereas, those who entered menopause before age 45 were 1,3 times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia before age 65 (called presenile or early-onset dementia). Postmenopausal women aged 52 or older, on the other hand, had rates of dementia similar to those of postmenopausal women at the average age of 50-51.

Although postmenopausal women are at greater risk of stroke than premenopausal women, and stroke can disrupt blood flow to the brain and can lead to vascular dementia, in this study the researchers did not find an association between age at menopause and the risk of vascular dementia.

How to prevent dementia

Dementia can be prevented, and there are several ways that women suffer from Premature menopause can reduce the risk. This includes:

  • constant exercise
  • participation in recreational and educational activities
  • not smoking
  • do not drink alcohol
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • get enough vitamin D.  
  • taking calcium supplements.

Researchers suggest that lowered estrogen levels may be a factor in the possible connection between premature menopause and dementia. The reason? There long-term estrogen deficiency increases oxidative stress, which can increase brain aging and lead to cognitive impairment and, consequently, dementia.

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Photos: American Heart Association

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