Early menopause could spark bigger brain problems - research

Women who go through menopause early are at risk of long-term negative effects on brain function, researchers say.
Photo / Thinkstock
Women who go through menopause early are at risk of long-term negative effects on brain function, researchers say. Photo / Thinkstock

Premature menopause could lead to reduced brain function later in life, research suggests.

The condition has been linked to long-term negative effects on cognitive function, the study found.

Researchers examined almost 5000 women over the age of 65 using questionnaires and cognitive tests after two, four and seven years.

Around eight per cent of the women in the study, which has been published in the journal BJOG, had loss of ovarian function or surgically induced menopause before the age of 40 - or premature menopause.

After the seven year follow-up period the researchers found that women who go through the menopause before they reach the age of 40 have a 30 per cent increased risk of decline in "psychomotor speed and cognitive function".

Lead author Dr Joanne Ryan, from the Hospital La Colombiere in Montpellier, France, said the findings should be considered when doctors decide whether to perform the surgical removal of ovaries in younger women.

"Both premature surgical menopause and premature ovarian failure were associated with long-term negative effects on cognitive function, which are not entirely offset by menopausal hormone treatment," she said.

"In terms of surgical menopause, our results suggest that the potential long-term effects on cognitive function should form part of the decision-making process when considering ovariectomy in younger women."

Pierre Martin Hirsch, BJOG's deputy editor-in-chief, said the study adds to the existing evidence base to suggest premature menopause can have a significant impact on cognitive function in later life.

"With the ageing population it is important to have a better understanding of the long-term effects of a premature menopause on later-life cognitive function and the potential benefit from using menopausal hormone treatment."

- PAA

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