When you first get your period, how many reproductive years you have and the number of children you have can all affect your dementia risk.
Having children and developing dementia are two events on opposite ends of the life spectrum. But just as your what happens in your nose can affect your toes, researchers are discovering they’re connected. And in more ways than one.
It’s long been known that far more women develop Alzheimer’s than men. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. No one really knows why this is the case, though.
There are a number of potential biological and social reasons that could come into play. Up until now, most experts agreed that more women had Alzheimer’s because women tend to live longer than men on average, and develop the disease in old age.
And some evidence points towards genetic variations that might be the cause.
But the obvious elephant in the room is the fact that women reproduce. Men don’t have babies and researchers from California felt that perhaps that’s where the missing link lay.
Here’s what they found.
In a study that involved analyzing self-reported data from 14,595 women between the ages of 40-55 from 1964 to1973, it was discovered that women who give birth to 3 or more children have a lower risk of developing dementia compared with those who birth just one child.
Conversely, each miscarriage reported is associated with a 9 percent increased risk of dementia.
Women with a longer period of reproductive years-those who got their period earlier and/or reached menopause later-also have a significantly lower risk of developing dementia.
And last but not least, there’s the age at which a girl gets her first period.
Those women who have their first period later than average- at 16 years of age or older-are at a 31 percent greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s than those who have their first period at around 13 years of age.
What does it all add up to? Researchers say they’re intrigued by the possibility that pregnancy may reorganize the mother’s body in more ways than expected. It could protect her against developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
So, it isn’t all about our exposure to estrogen-which is bad news for those who wish to remain childless, but potentially good news for those with 4 or 5 young ones ruling the roost.
All those temper tantrums are for the greater good! A silver lining in the cloud, even if it’s many years off.