BIG Research You Gotta Know About
Meet Neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Mosconi. She is researching why twice as many women as men get Alzheimer’s. Dr. Mosconi was studying the female brain during menopause to find answers and discovered a menopause-Alzheimer’s link.
As we understand it today, Alzheimer’s has many influences and causes, such as age, genetic predisposition, and lifestyle (read: diet and exercise). Also, Alzheimer’s is not exclusive to the elderly. There is a consensus among scientists that Alzheimer’s can begin for certain people as early as their 40s and 50s.
Dr. Mosconi’s research demonstrates that estrogen protects the female brain from aging by stimulating neural activity. It may also help prevent the build-up of plaque connected with the early onset of Alzheimer’s. (1)
Menopause & The Alzheimer’s Link
Research on women’s health is not extensive. However, Dr. Mosconi’s data suggest a strong association between early menopause and increased risk of Alzheimer’s in women. An oophorectomy (the surgical removal of the ovaries) increases that risk by up to 70%.
Removing the uterus compromises blood flow to the ovaries and disrupts the system, which may or may not affect the ovaries. Also, evidence indicates the risk of Alzheimer’s increases with a hysterectomy. Research into estrogen is examining what connection might exist between estrogen and Alzheimer’s. (2)
Gender Bias in Alzheimer’s Research
Dr. Mosconi surmises that the gender bias in research, combined with the differences between male and female brains, may be why traditional Alzheimer’s drugs work better in men than in women.
Also, the diminished sensitivity for Alzheimer’s tests and lack of brain imaging technology indicate that “we probably misdiagnosed women forever,” said Dr. Mosconi. These reasons may be why some Alzheimer’s treatments don’t work well for women.
Traditional symptoms of perimenopause (hot flashes, vaginal dryness, brain fog, etc.) are neurological symptoms of hormonal changes all women experience. But for some women, can the changes be so severe they trigger Alzheimer’s disease? (2)