Menopause age, type may be linked to cognitive performance
In a recent study, the age that women reached menopause and the type of menopause experienced appeared to impact their cognition as they grew older.
“Generally, earlier versus later menopause is associated with poorer cognitive performance post-menopause,” Louisa Needham, a PhD student in the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College of London, said during a prerecorded presentation for the virtual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. “However, it is unclear whether menopause timing associates with dementia risk.”
The researchers analyzed data from a small group of participants within the 1946 British Birth Cohort, a demographically diverse group that researchers have followed for decades, according to U.K. Research and Innovation. Previous studies involving cohort participants have indicated that “a better cognition in childhood predicted a later age at menopause and that childhood cognition is one of the strongest predictors of cognition in later life,” Needham said.
For the new study, the researchers assessed memory, executive function, attention, visuospatial function, processing speed and nonverbal reasoning of 243 women in the cohort. They used the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE-III) to measure the participants’ cognitive state. The women were aged 69 to 71 years when they took the tests.
Needham and colleagues reported that later menopause was linked to better cognitive performance at an older age, while surgical menopause was linked to worse cognitive performance.
After accounting for childhood cognition, the links remained between menopause age and total ACE-III ( = 0.012; 95% CI, 0.001-0.023), ACE-III visuospatial function ( = 0.012; 95% CI, 0-0.023) and response inhibition ( = 0.034; 95% CI, 0.008-0.061) and between menopause type and response inhibition ( = –0.368; 95% CI, –0.665 to –0.07). After full adjustments, the links persisted between menopause age and ACE-III memory ( = 0.011; 95% CI, 0-0.023). Intra-individual variability in cognitive test reaction times were also linked to age at menopause ( = –0.049; 95% CI, –0.079 to –0.019) and type ( = 0.413; 95% CI, 0.076-0.75).
The reasons for the associations are not “fully explained” by childhood cognition and other lifetime events, according to the researchers.
Needham L, et al. Menopause and later-life cognition: Findings from the longest-running population-based birth cohort. Presented at: Alzheimer’s Association International Conference; July 26-30, 2021 (virtual meeting).
U.K. Innovation and Research. https://mrc.ukri.org/research/facilities-and-resources-for-researchers/cohort-directory/mrc-national-survey-of-health-and-development-cohort-1946-birth-cohort-nshd-1946bc. MRC National Survey of Health and Development Cohort /1946 Birth Cohort (NSHD/ 1946BC). Accessed July 29, 2021.