Early menopause may increase risk of dementia later in life

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Women who enter menopause before age 40, were found to be more likely to develop dementia of any type later in life compared to women who begin menopause at the average menopause-onset age of 50 to 51 years, according to preliminary research.

The research, led by Wenting Hao, M.D., a Ph.D. candidate at Shandong University in Jinan, China was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2022 in early March.

In the study, the potential relationship between age at menopause onset and the diagnosis of dementia from any cause was analyzed. Health data was examined for 153,291 women who were an average age of 60 years when they became participants in the UK Biobank, a large biomedical database that includes genetic and health information on a half million people living in the United Kingdom.

Researchers identified the diagnosis of all types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and dementias from other causes. They calculated risk of occurrence in terms of the age at which the women reported having entered menopause, compared with the women who began menopause at the average age of menopause onset. The results were adjusted for factors including age at last exam, race, educational level, cigarette and alcohol use, body mass index, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, income, and leisure and physical activities.

The study concluded that women who entered menopause before the age of 40 were 35 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with dementia, while women who entered menopause before the age of 45 were 1.3 times more likely to have been diagnosed with dementia before they were 65 years old. In addition, the research found that women who entered menopause at age 52 or older had similar rates of dementia to those women who entered menopause at the average age of menopause onset.

Researchers also found that lowered estrogen levels may be a factor in the possible connection between early menopause and dementia.

“Being aware of this increased risk can help women practice strategies to prevent dementia and to work with their physicians to closely monitor their cognitive status as they age,” Hao said in a statement.