Risk of Alzheimer's linked to menopause

The menopause triggers changes in the brain that could increase a woman's risk of getting Alzheimer's, research suggests.

Using scans, scientists found that women who were post-menopausal or approaching the menopause had much lower levels of glucose metabolism – where sugars from food are converted into energy – in key parts of the brain.
A similar result is seen in the brains of people in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
Women produce less oestrogen once they hit the menopause, and the US scientists believe lower levels of the hormone may cause brain cells to go into starvation mode, causing the changes that were seen. Low oestrogen levels have already been linked to other brain-related symptoms including depression, anxiety, insomnia and general memory problems.

It also means the loss of a key neuroprotective element in the female brain and a higher vulnerability to brain ageing and Alzheimer's disease.

Oestrogen receptors are found on cells throughout the brain and evidence suggests that reduced signalling after women stop producing the hormone during their monthly cycle could leave the brain more vulnerable to a range of diseases. The US authors said more research is needed on whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to boost oestrogen levels could help.

‘This study suggests that the menopause could be affecting brain metabolism, but it is too small to be able to draw firm conclusions, and the participants did not have dementia. 


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