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Elevated Estrogen Levels and Diabetes Linked to Dementia in Women

Update Date: Jan 30, 2014 11:10 AM EST

Postmenopausal women with elevated estrogen levels are more prone to developing dementia, a new study has found. 

According to the study, women who have diabetes may face even greater threat of cognitive decline. 

The findings in the study questions the prevailing belief that estrogen protects a women's brain and heart. 

"Results of this new study, together with other recent research, challenge this dogma, and show that findings from animal models don't necessarily apply to women," Dr. Pierre-Yves Scarabin, of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Villejuif, France, told Medscape Medical News.

The study also found that low levels of estrogen may confer increased risk for dementia. However, reverse causation is probably driving this finding, said Dr. Scarabin. 

Researchers considered 132 women who had incident dementia and 543 women without any such complications. They determined the dementia through a process that started with a neuropsychological examination. Participants who were suspected dementia had to undergo another examination by a neurologist. Potential cases were reviewed by an independent committee of neurologists and determined using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Revised, criteria. 

"Importantly, our study reported, for the first time, a dramatic rise in future dementia risk in women with both diabetes, which is a well-known risk factor for dementia, and high estradiol levels," added Dr. Scarabin.

"However, more and more evidence suggests an association between high estradiol levels and dementia in women who have undergone menopause.Considering the expected increase in the number of elderly people with diabetes and dementia, more research on this topic should be urgently conducted."

The findings are detailed in the journal Neurology

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