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Dementia Risk Elevated in Older Diabetic Women with High Estrogen

High post-menopausal estrogen levels may be risky…. 

A recent study suggests that diabetic women with high estrogen levels may be at a much higher risk for developing dementia. While it has long been known that diabetic women are at a higher risk for developing the disorder, this is the first study which discovered that high estrogen levels after age 65 may also play a role in increasing a woman’s risk.

Researchers measured the estrogen levels of 543 women over the age of 65 who did not have dementia as well as 132 women over the age of 65 who did have dementia. In their findings, there seemed to be a correlation with high estrogen levels, diabetes, and developing dementia. While it was discovered that having diabetes can put a women at a 2 times higher risk of developing dementia, having diabetes as well as a high estrogen level put women at a 14 times higher risk for developing the disorder, as compared to non-diabetic women with low estrogen levels.

The researchers also report that women who had diabetes and dementia had estrogen levels that were 70% higher on average compared to women who had only diabetes. This information came as a shock because a few previous studies have suggested that estrogen may have a protective effect on the brain, but it seems that the protective effect may have to do with the age at which the estrogen levels are high.

More studies need to be done to identify what this information means for diabetic post-menopausal women seeking hormone replacement therapy.

Practice Pearls:
  • Women aged 65 and older with both diabetes and high estrogen levels were found to be 14 times more likely to develop dementia as compared to non-diabetic women with low estrogen levels.
  • Women who had dementia and diabetes had estrogen levels which were 70% higher than women with only diabetes.
  • Previous studies have found that estrogen may have a protective effect against dementia, but these findings suggest that after menopause high estrogen levels may have the opposite effect.

Published online in Neurology, Feb.2014