Madrid / Middle-aged women are more likely than men to experience Alzheimer-related brain changes, which may be associated with hormonal changes from menopause such as loss of estrogens, according to a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“About two-thirds of people living with Alzheimer’s are women, and it’s always been thought to be because they live longer,” says study author Lisa Mosconi of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
However, “our study shows that menopause may be the best time to anticipate possible changes related to Alzheimer’s in women,” she stresses.
85 women and 36 men with a mean age of 52 years who did not have any type of cognitive disability participated in the study.
Men and women had similar scores on tests of reasoning and memory and on measures such as blood pressure or a family history of Alzheimer’s.
Participants underwent MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scans – which show how organs and tissues function – to see if they had beta amyloid plaques in the brain, a biomarker associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Testing in four key areas of brain health
The researchers compared women and men in four key areas of brain health to assess their risk for Alzheimer’s biomarkers: the volume of gray and white matter in the brain, the levels of beta-amyloid plaques, and the rate of that the brain metabolizes glucose, a sign of brain activity.
Women performed worse on all four measures.
On average, women had 30% more beta amyloid plaques in the brain, and 22% less glucose metabolism than men, and when measuring average gray matter volume, women had 0.73 cubic centimeters (cc / cm3) compared to the men who had 0.8 cm3, which is a difference of 11%.
For the average white matter volume, women were 0.74 cm3 compared to men who were 0.82 cm3, that is, 11% less.
“Our findings suggest that middle-aged women may be at increased risk for the disease, perhaps due to lower levels of the hormone estrogen during and after menopause,” explains Mosconi.
“Although all sex hormones are likely to be involved, our findings suggest that estrogen declines are involved in Alzheimer’s biomarker abnormalities,” she concludes.
However, Mosconi cautions that the study has its limitations in that only healthy middle-aged people without severe cardiovascular or brain disease participated, so larger studies are needed that track participants over a period of time. (June 25, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)
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