Earlier Menopause And Higher Cardiovascular Risk May Be Linked To Memory And Thinking Problems Study Reveals

A large Canadian research study, published 3rd April in the scientific journal Neurology has reported that women with an earlier onset of menopause and higher risk of cardiovascular disease show signs of reduced cognitive function.

Previous studies have shown that that things like high blood pressure and smoking can cause cardiovascular disease, and this can damage the brain, leading to increased cognitive decline and an increased risk of developing dementia.

The researchers of this study set out to understand more about the role that menopause and hormones might play, and how this might be influenced by other risk factors.

Over 8,000 women were involved as part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Ageing and compared them to men who were the same age. The researchers analysed health information including factors that may impact a person’s cardiovascular health including high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and smoking. To measure cognitive function, participants took part in memory and thinking tests both at the beginning of the study and 3 years later.

Speaking about the results Dr Leah Mursaleen, Head of Clinical Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK explained the importance of investigating this area, “Research like this is vital to gain clearer insights into how changes in hormones interact with cardiovascular risk, and how this influences our brain health. It is encouraging to see studies investigating how things like menopause and hormone levels influence other risk factors, as this is an area which, historically, has been poorly investigated.”

The researchers defined earlier menopause as occurring before 49 years of age. They included a women’s history of taking hormone replacement therapy in their analysis and it and was found not to affect the combined impact of cardiovascular risk and earlier menopause. However, it appeared that the link between earlier menopause and cognitive function may be reduced with use of hormone therapy.

Reflecting on the results, Dr Mursaleen also emphasises the need for more research, “to unravel how this might be happening. For example, it would be helpful to investigate this relationship in more diverse populations of women, over a longer period of time, to see how their cognition changes in later years.”

“Research has highlighted the potential for dementia risk reduction with studies suggesting that up to 40% of dementia cases could be linked to factors we can influence”, she adds.

“This means there are steps we can all take to protect our brain health, including keeping our brains active and staying connected. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s ‘Think Brain Health Check-in’ available to help people to find out how to make small positive changes that could help protect their brain health and potentially reduce their dementia risk”.


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