According to Paola Gilsanz, ScD, women are 50% more likely to develop dementia over their lifetimes than men. For this reason, much of the research surrounding risk for developing a dementia focuses on studying risk factors.
Risk factors are characteristics or attributes of a person’s life that increase their likelihood of developing a particular condition or disease. Common risk factors related to dementia are:
- Being 65 years or older
- Having a family history of dementia
- Poor diet
- Excessive tobacco and alcohol use
- Not exercising both the mind and mind
A study following a large cohort of women measured estrogen exposure from women’s reproductive period and dementia risk. Gilsanz and her research team calculated the number of reproductive years of each research participant, cross-referencing this information with which of the participants developed a dementia later in life.
Analysis found that the women with reproductive spans of less than about 34 years had a 20% higher chance of developing dementia. Of all participants, those with reproductive spans of 14-20 years had a 55% higher risk for dementia.
At the conclusion of the study, Gilsanz said “Estrogen levels can go up and down throughout a woman’s lifetime. Our result show that less exposure to estrogen over the course of a lifetime is linked to an increased risk of dementia. However, while our study was large, we did not have enough data to account for other factors that could affect estrogen levels, like pregnancies, hormone replacement therapy or birth control, so more research is needed”.