Older women who have both diabetes and naturally elevated oestrogen levels are significantly more likely to develop dementia, a new study has revealed.
Diabetes is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but this latest research shows that prolonged high blood glucose levels combined with high levels of the primary female sex hormone, oestroge, can increase the risk of dementia even further.
Dr. Pierre-Yves Scarabi, of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), and colleagues measured blood oestrogen levels of 5,644 postmenopausal women aged 65 years or older who were free of dementia.
After a four-year follow-up, 543 women who did not have dementia were compared with 132 women who had developed the disorder, with both groups assessed for dementia risk factors, including diabetes, hypertension and abnormal blood clotting.
The team found that women who had either very low or very high levels of natural oestrogen were twice as likely to develop dementia compared with women who had normal oestrogen levels.
In women who had both high oestrogen levels and diabetes, the risk of dementia was some 14 times greater than it was for diabetic participants with normal hormone levels. However, this only applied to 10 women in total.
The researchers also discovered that oestrogen levels were a staggering 70% higher in women with both diabetes and dementia than women only diagnosed with diabetes.
Commenting on the findings, which were published online in the journal Neurology, Dr. Scarabin said: “These results are surprising, given the expected brain protective effects of oestrogen-based therapy. However, more and more evidence suggests an association between high estradiol levels and dementia in women who have undergone menopause.”
The study author added that further research on this association “should be urgently conducted” given the predicted rise in the number of elderly people with both diabetes and dementia.

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