Post-menopausal women at higher risk of dementia and stroke, study finds

There is also an increased risk of cognitive decline

Male MPs try hot flush vest to experience menopause symptoms

Women who have gone through menopause could have a higher risk of dementia, cognitive decline or of suffering a stroke than pre-menopausal women or men of the same age, a study has found.

The study, published on Wednesday in the American Academy of Neurology journal, found that post-menopausal women might have more of a brain biomarker called white matter hyperintensities.

White matter hyperintensities are small lesions that are visible on brain scans and become more common with age or for those who have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

These biomarkers have been linked to dementia, an increased risk of stroke and cognitive decline.

The study involved 3,410 people, of whom 58 per cent were women. Of this group, 59 per cent were post-menopausal.

The average age of participants was 54, and 35 per cent of all participants had high blood pressure, with half of these having uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Study author Monique MB Breteler, a scientist at the German Centre of Neurodegenerative Diseases, said that while having these lesions did not automatically mean people would have a stroke or get dementia, it did put people at higher risk.

“Our study examined what role menopause might have on the amounts of these brain biomarkers,” she explained.

“Our results imply that white matter hyperintensities evolve differently for men and women, where menopause or factors that determine when menopause starts, such as variations in the ageing process, are defining factors.”

Each of the study participants had MRI brain scans so researchers could calculate the amount of white matter hyperintensities for each participant.

It found that, in people older than 45, post-menopausal women had more of these lesions than men, and the biomarkers accelerated faster with age in women than in men.

There was no difference in the amount of white matter hyperintensities found in pre-menopausal women and men of similar ages.

Researchers also noted that there was no difference between pre- and post-menopausal women who used hormone therapy. They suggested that this could mean hormone therapy post-menopause might not have protective effects on the brain.

“The results of our study not only show more research is needed to investigate how menopause might be related to the vascular health of the brain,” Breteler said, “but they also demonstrate the necessity to account for different health trajectories for men and women, and menopausal status. Our research underscores the importance of sex-specific medicine and more attentive therapy for older women, especially those with vascular risk factors.”

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