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Alzheimers Risk in Menopausal Women
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Alzheimer’s Risk in Menopausal Women

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Highlights:

  • Study finds physiological connection between menopause and Alzheimer’s.
  • Metabolic changes in the brain during menopause may increase risk for Alzheimer’s.
  • Lower levels of glucose metabolism observed in key brain regions in menopausal women.

Menopause causes metabolic changes in the brain that may increase the risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer's, a team from Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of Arizona Health Sciences has shown in the new study. The study also helps solve a mystery about why women are more susceptible to Alzheimer's disease than men. The findings are published in PLoS One.

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Menopause, for long has been known to cause neurological problems including depression, anxiety and insomnia. This new study has established that metabolic changes during the menopausal period may increase the risk of Alzheimer's. While scientists believe that most symptoms are caused due to decline in estrogen levels, the new findings open ways to develop efficient detection and intervention techniques to reduce the risk.

Overview of the Study

Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging technique was used to measure the use of glucose-- fuel source for cellular activity--in the brains of 43 healthy women aged 40 to 60. Among them, 15 were pre-menopausal, 14 were transitioning to menopause (peri-menopausal) and 14 were menopausal.

"This study suggests there may be a critical window of opportunity, when women are in their 40s and 50s, to detect metabolic signs of higher Alzheimer's risk and apply strategies to reduce that risk," said lead author Dr. Lisa Mosconi.

Study Findings

  • Women who had undergone menopause or those in the transition period had markedly lower levels of glucose metabolism in several key brain regions than those who were pre-menopausal.
  • Menopausal and peri-menopausal showed lower levels of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase activity, an important metabolic enzyme.
  • These groups of women also scored lower on standard memory tests.
"Our findings show that the loss of estrogen in menopause doesn't just diminish fertility," said Dr. Mosconi, associate director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. "It also means the loss of a key neuroprotective element in the female brain and a higher vulnerability to brain aging and Alzheimer's disease.
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The research team suggests that the results may eventually lead to the development of screening tests and early interventions to reverse or slow the observed metabolic changes.

Key Note

We need to understand that while menopause may have increased risks for Alzheimer's disease, menopause is a natural process of aging. It is important that we understand the associated risks and take steps to prevent the worse turn of events.

Exercising to keep the brain young and healthy as well as consuming foods rich in antioxidants like flaxseeds will boost estrogen production, minimizing the harmful side effects of menopause.

Reference:

  1. Overview - Menopause - (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseasesconditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397)

Source: Medindia

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