HealthDay News — Reproductive history events, such as the menopause transition, and indicators of estrogen exposure, including longer reproductive span and number of children, are associated with gray matter volume (GMV) in midlife women, according to a study published online Nov. 3 in Neurology.

Eva Schelbaum, from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and colleagues examined associations between indicators of estrogen exposure from women’s reproductive history and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) biomarkers of Alzheimer disease in midlife among 99 cognitively normal women ages 52 ± 6 years and 29 men ages 52 ± 7 years.

The researchers found that compared with men, all menopausal groups exhibited lower GMV in Alzheimer disease-vulnerable regions; compared with the premenopausal group, perimenopausal and postmenopausal groups also exhibited lower GMV in the temporal cortex. Independent of age, apolipoprotein E ε4 status, and midlife health indicators, there were positive associations observed for reproductive span, number of children and pregnancies, and use of hormonal therapy and hormonal contraceptives with GMV, mainly in the temporal cortex, frontal cortex, and precuneus. GMV in temporal regions was positively associated with memory and global cognition scores, although reproductive history indicators were not directly associated with cognitive measures.

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“We found that a number of ways a woman is exposed to estrogen — not having reached menopause, having more total reproductive years, having a higher number of children, using menopause hormone therapy or hormonal contraceptives — were associated with larger gray matter volumes in midlife,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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