Research suggests having children might guard against Alzheimer’s disease for women, according to data presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago.
Scientists at Monday’s conference said the findings about the relationship between female sex hormone levels and dementia could be key to explaining why women are more at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, reported NPR.
Women comprise nearly two-thirds of the 5.5 million-plus Americans who have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia that causes memory loss and mental impairment, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. (RELATED: Study: To Avoid Alzheimer’s, Pay Attention To Your Blood Pressure)
Two studies have prompted researchers to suggest that women who “begin to menstruate earlier, go through menopause later, and have more than one child” are at a lower risk of dementia, reported NPR.
The first study examined nearly 15,000 women in California and found that women who gave birth to three or more children had a 12 percent lower risk of dementia than women who gave birth to one child.
The second study examined 133 elderly women in the United Kingdom and found that “the more months of pregnancy they experienced during their lives, the lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s,” reported NPR.
Researchers are still looking into why greater exposure to female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone seems to reduce a woman’s risk of dementia. Some scientists suggest that sudden changes in female sex hormone levels are what raises the risk of dementia for women. Researchers are also looking into how hormone replacement therapy could combat these changes in hormone levels and perhaps affect the likelihood of developing dementia in women.
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