A new study has found that women have better brainpower after menopause if they had their last baby after age 35, used hormonal contraceptives for more than 10 years or began their menstrual cycle before turning 13. This is the first study to investigate the association between age at last pregnancy, which can be a marker of a later surge of pregnancy-related hormones, and cognitive function in later life, said Dr. Roksana Karim, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor of Clinical Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Based on the findings, we would certainly not recommend that women wait until they're 35 to close their family, but the study provides strong evidence that there is a positive association between later age at last pregnancy and late-life cognition." Postmenopausal women who had their last pregnancy after 35 had better verbal memory. Those who had their first pregnancy when they were 24 or older had significantly better executive function, which includes attention control, working memory, reasoning and problem solving. The main hormones at play are estrogen and progesterone. In animal studies, estrogen has a beneficial impact on brain chemistry, function and structure; progesterone is linked with growth and development of brain tissue, Dr. Karim said. The study, published online on November 7, 2016 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, includes 830 women who, on average, were 60 years old.
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