MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The younger a woman is when she undergoes surgical menopause, the greater her chances of developing memory problems at an earlier age, new research suggests.
Surgical menopause describes the end of ovarian function due to gynecological surgery before the age of natural menopause. It involves the removal of one or both ovaries (an oophorectomy), often in combination with a hysterectomy, the removal of a woman's uterus.
"For women with surgically induced menopause, early age at menopause was associated with a faster decline in memory," said study author Dr. Riley Bove, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School and an associate neurologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. However, she stressed, "These are very preliminary data."
Bove said other research suggests a link between a decrease in the hormone estrogen during menopause and mental decline, and the aim of this study was to better understand the relationship between reproductive-health factors and memory changes. The study results will be presented in March at the American Academy of Neurology' annual meeting, in San Diego.
For the study, the researchers analyzed medical records of more than 1,800 women aged 53 to 100 who were taking part in one of two studies conducted by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago: the Religious Orders Study and the Memory and Aging Project.
The researchers assessed reproductive variables, such as when women had their first period, the number of years menstrual cycles lasted, and use of hormone replacement therapies. Measurements from several types of thinking and memory tests were analyzed, too. The scientists also assessed the results of brain biopsies after death, some of which showed the presence of Alzheimer's plaques.
"We had approximately 580 brains available for analysis -- this speaks to the very unique
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