Upon reaching menopause, women go through changes at the brain level

In Spain, there are more than 22 million women, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and of them about 8 million are going through or have gone through menopause.

The question is, what is menopause exactly? It marks the point in time twelve months after a woman’s last period. The years before a woman stops menstruating are collectively called the menopausal transition, also known as perimenopause. The hormone levels vary a lot During this transition period, women may experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

In this regard, there are more and more scientific studies that focus on this stage. For example, it has been observed that bad cholesterol levels increase during menopauseand 10% of this increase is likely due to changes in sex hormones.

Another focus of attention is linked to the use of hormone therapy for menopause (THM) and its influence on health, particularly with a decreased incidence of breast cancer. In this sense, due to changes at the hormonal level, cancer is one of the most sought-after targets in scientific studies.

According to Therese Bevers, medical director of the Anderson Cancer Prevention Center, “menopause does not cause cancer. But your risk of developing cancer increases as you age. Therefore, women going through menopause have a higher chance of developing cancer because they are older. Beginning menopause after age 55 increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer. It’s probably because have been exposed to more estrogen. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, estrogen stimulates the uterus and breast tissue. So the more menstrual periods a woman has, the longer these tissues are exposed to estrogen.”

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At the same time, adds Bevers, “women who go through menopause later may also have a increased risk of ovarian cancerpossibly because they have had more ovulations.

Despite the growing number of studies being conducted around menopause, few have focused on the brain and changes caused by hormones. The transition from premenopause to postmenopause, with its steep decline in estrogen production, involves changes in brain structure, connectivity and brain energy consumption, although many of these changes are only temporary, according to a study led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine has found.

In the studio youused magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the brains of 161 women between the ages of 40 and 65. Some of the women had not yet begun the menopausal transition, some were in that transition (“peri-menopausal”), and a third group were postmenopausal.

Los results showed changes in gray matter volume, the part of the brain that consists primarily of neuron cell bodies, and white matter, the bundles of nerve fibers that connect neurons. Changes in cerebral blood flow and consumption of glucose, the main fuel source for neurons, and changes in Alzheimer’s-associated amyloid beta protein deposits were also seen.

The latest study that has analyzed the brain of women in menopause has been based on a brain biomarker called white matter hyperintensity. White matter hyperintensities are small lesions visible on brain scans that become more common with age or with uncontrolled high blood pressure. These brain biomarkers have been linked in some studies to an increased risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive decline.

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“White matter hyperintensities – explains study leader Monique MB Breteler – increase as the brain ages, and although having them does not mean that a person will develop dementia or have a stroke, larger amounts can increase the risk. Our study examined what role menopause may have in the amounts of these biomarkers cerebral. Our results imply that white matter hyperintensities evolve differently for men and women. Menopause, or the factors that determine when menopause begins, are defining factors.”

The study involved 3,410 volunteers with an average age of 54 years.

After adjusting for age and vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, Breteler’s team found that postmenopausal women had more of these brain biomarkers compared to age-matched men. The findings also showed that the increase in brain biomarkers accelerates with age and at a faster rate in women than in men.

It has also been observed that the postmenopausal women had more hyperintensities of white matter than age-matched premenopausal women.

Although the conclusions are very interesting, the authors point out that did not know did not know the exact age of onset of menopause or if some participants were perimenopausal and that may be a limitation.


Are there differences between the brains of men and women?