- Alzheimer’s or dementia, the aging-related disease, is affecting nearly two-thirds of women in America.
- But various researches from different scientists presented on Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association of International Conference in Chicago revealed results that the woman’s reproductive history is linked to their risk of developing the disease.
- Findings showed that boosted estrogen levels and changes in the immune system during pregnancy and hormone therapy in non-diabetic patients are among the factors that lower risks of the disease.
A diverse study of 14,595 long-term Kaiser Permanente members, 32% of whom are non-white, found that women with 3 or more children had a 12% lower risk of dementia in later life than those with fewer children. Women who had their first menstrual period at ages 16 to 17 have a 31% higher risk than those who had theirs at 13. A 28% higher risk was also observed in women who stopped menstruating at 45 years or earlier than those who stopped after age 45.
Increased Levels of Estrogen
Lower risks in the disease from pregnancy were found to be due to the increased levels of estrogen during the first trimester. Miscarriages on the other hand, could put women at a higher risk at 8%. This supports a related study from UCLA that shows the more months spent on being pregnant lowers the risk rates.
The UCLA study also surmised that changes in the immune functions also play a role in lowering the risks of dementia. Women experience increased levels of Tregs during the first trimester of pregnancy and continue even after pregnancy. These special kinds of immune cells are known as regulatory T-cells prevent autoimmune diseases. Lower levels of Tregs and higher levels of inflammation-causing cells are seen in Alzheimer’s patients.
The fact that pregnancy provides relief from inflammation gave rise to the idea that changes in the immune system is even more protective than boosted estrogen levels in the later part of pregnancy, according to Molly Fox, study author and assistant professor in UCLA.
A paper from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health showed increased rates of cognitive decline among women with diabetes taking hormones in their 60s and 70s. No cognitive harm was observed among non-diabetic patients who started the therapy in their early 50s for menopause-related issues.
Associate Professor at UW Carey Gleason said that these new findings should comfort “women who are worried they are hurting their brains either in the moment or down the road.”
For this, women should consult their doctors regarding their risk profiles, so they can benefit from FDA-approved medications that give them the optimal treatment in the early stages of dementia.