Going Through Early Menopause and Before The Risk of Dementia Later On
Early menopause officially begins between the ages of 45 and 55 with an average age of 51 in the United States. Premature menopause starts even earlier, before age 40. Many doctors now refer to premature menopause as “premature ovarian failure” or “primary ovarian insufficiency.” These terms reduce some of the stigma for younger women going through menopause. As women age, their bodies produce less estrogen and progesterone, the main hormones involved in female reproduction. When these hormones reach a low enough level, a woman will permanently stop having a menstrual cycle.
Early menopause means a woman’s period stops. The ovaries no longer release eggs and estrogen levels become very low. Once a woman has not had periods for 12 straight months, she has gone through menopause. However, it is important to ensure that the lack of periods is not due to another reason (like abnormal thyroid function or the use of birth control pills).
Causes of early menopause
The causes of premature ovarian failure are often unknown; however, it is associated with:
Genetic disorders and chromosome abnormalities, such as in women with Turner syndrome
- An autoimmune disease where the immune system starts attacking body tissues
- Certain infections, such as tuberculosis, malaria and mumps
- Exposure to toxins such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy used to treat cancer
- Surgeries or procedures to remove ovaries or uterus, such as oophorectomy and hysterectomy
- HIV and AIDS.
Symptoms of Premature menopause
Symptoms can include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary tract injections
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Emotional changes such as mood swings
- Mild depression
- Worsening anxiety
- Dry skin
- Dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Breast tenderness
- Racing heartbeat
- Joint and muscle aches and pains\
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Reduced sex drive or libido
Risks of early menopause
Research has shown that women who enter menopause very early, before age 40, were found to be more likely to develop dementia of any type later in life compared to women who begin menopause at the average menopause-, set age of 50 to 51 years. The higher risk for dementia may be due to the sharp estrogen drop that takes place during menopause. Estrogen can activate cellular antioxidants such as glutathione; reduce ApoE4, the most common genetic risk factor in the pathogenesis of dementia, and reduce amyloid plaque deposition in the brain.
Dementia involves serious changes in the brain that impair a person’s ability to remember, make decisions and use language. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, while the second most common is vascular dementia, which is the result of disruptions in blood flow to brain cells caused by strokes or plaque build-up in arteries supplying blood to the brain. Both of these types of dementia are more common with age. Diseases affecting specific parts of the brain can also lead to dementia, and a person can have dementia due to more than one disease process.
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