Longer Reproductive Period, Contraceptive Use, IUD Use All Associated with Better Cognitive Function in Elderly Women; Shorter Reproductive Period, More Full-Term Pregnancies, & No Incomplete Pregnancies All Linked to Worse Cognitive Function

Researchers led by Professor Jun-Fen Lin at the Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China have found that reproductive history, an important modifier of estrogen exposure across women's lifetimes, is associated with risk of cognitive impairment in post-menopausal women. These findings are published online on September 28, 2015 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. In particular, the scientists found a longer reproductive period (menarche to menopause) was associated with significantly better cognitive function in elderly women. On the other hand, shorter reproductive period, higher number of full-term pregnancies, and no incomplete pregnancies are all significantly associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment. Further, the use of contraceptives and/or IUDs was associated with decreased risk of cognitive impairment. The article is titled “Reproductive History and Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Elderly Women: A Cross-Sectional Study in Eastern China.” Professor Lin notes that post-menopausal women carry an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) than age-matched men, probably due to the marked reduction of estrogen level that occurs following menopause. Animal and in vitro studies have identified that estrogen has several possible neuroprotective effects on cognitive function. There has been substantial research on the association between reproductive history, as an important modifer of estrogen exposure, and risk of cognitive impairment. However, there are still inconsistencies in some epidemiological and clinical studies. Only a few studies have been conducted in Chinese populations. The Zhejiang Major Public Health Surveillance Program (ZPHS) is a community-based cohort study focusing on aging and health among elderly in Zhejiang, China.
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