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Alzheimer’s disease

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is a term that describes a range of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline in brain function, affecting memory, cognitive skills and other mental abilities. 

Although the cause is not fully understood, people with Alzheimer’s have an abnormal build-up of a protein called amyloid around and between brain cells, disrupting the functioning of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. 

The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age and is highest in people over the age of 65. It affects an estimated 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in every 6 people over the age of 80. Around 1 in 20 people with Alzheimer’s disease are under the age of 65. This is called early- or young-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Carries of a gene called apolipoprotein E-4 (APOE-4) are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than individuals without this gene.

Why is Alzheimer’s disease risk increased after menopause?

Alzheimer’s disease is twice as common in women as in men, and research suggests there may be an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in women after they have transitoned through the menopause. This thought to be related to the reduction in the hormones estrogen and progesterone that occurs during and after the menopause transition. Estrogen is not only essential for female reproductive functioning, but also plays  a critical role in brain health.

Estrogen and progesterone bind to receptors on brain cells, and are important for the regulation of energy production, neurotransmitter functioning and other essential brain activities, significantly influencing memory, mood and cognition. Estrogen depletion has been linked to amyloid accumulation, a notable feature of Alzheimer’s disease.

Why is Alzheimer's disease risk increased after menopause?

Studies show that women who go through menopause earlier than average are more likely to develop dementia; whereas in contrast, women who experience menopause later in life are generally less likely to develop dementia. 

The reduction in hormone levels that accompanies menopause is also responsible for the more general symptoms experienced by many women, including hot flushes, brain fog, disturbed sleep, depression and memory decline. It’s important to note that for the vast majority of women, the changes in memory and cognitive functioning that accompany the menopause transition, are not a sign of early Alzheimer’s disease. 

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

The initial signs of Alzheimer’s disease are often non-specific and are common to many other neurological conditions. These include minor memory problems, for example, forgetting the names of people or objects, or recent conversations.

Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition, most people experience an increase in the number and severity of symptoms, usually over several years, with many eventually requiring full-time care.

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

The data as to whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) reduces the risk of dementia are conflicting, with some studies showing benefit, and others not. Therefore, most guidelines recommend that HRT not be given for prevention of dementia alone. Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic, long-term health condition, and as is the case for many other such conditions, general preventative measures have been shown to possibly be helpful in reducing the risk. These include lifestyle measures such as:

These measures have other health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving overall general and mental health.

How NewWoman Health can help

At NewWomen Health we have a commitment to educating, advising, treating and supporting women approaching, during, and following menopause. Our wide range of medical and lifestyle interventions helps women to manage or minimise their menopause symptoms and improve their quality (and potential longevity) of life in an aspirational and uplifting way.

If you’re concerned about Alzheimer’s or any symptoms you have been experiencing, we can help with our personalised medical consultations with menopause specialists. Take the next step in learning about Alzheimer’s and ensuring your long-term health and quality of life by booking a consultation with us today.

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You are not alone. As a local example, in Manchester over 46% of council employees are female and over 40 years old. In a CIPD survey (2019) over 30% of women said they were unable to work because of menopausal symptoms.

Only 25% said they could tell their manager the real reason for their absence. The Council account for nearly 7% of all employment in Manchester. They implemented a new Menopause policy in March 2022. CIPD survey | Manchester Council Menopause Policy | CIPD Manchester

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