Posted on Feb 02, 2024, 4 p.m.
Those with polycystic ovary syndrome may be more likely to experience memory and thinking problems in middle age according to recent research published in Neurology. However, the study is not able to prove polycystic ovary syndrome causes cognitive issues, it is only able to show an association.
Some women can develop polycystic ovary syndrome which is a hormonal disorder that is defined by an irregular menstrual cycle and elevated levels of androgen hormones. Those with polycystic ovary syndrome may also experience excess hair growth, acne, infertility, and poor metabolic health.
“Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common reproductive disorder that impacts up to 10% of women," said study author Heather G. Huddleston, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco. "While it has been linked to metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes that can lead to heart problems, less is known about how this condition affects brain health. Our results suggest that people with this condition have lower memory and thinking skills and subtle brain changes at midlife. This could impact a person on many levels, including quality of life, career success and financial security."
This study involved 907 women participants between the ages of 18 to 30 years old who were followed for 30 years. 66 participants had polycystic ovary syndrome at enrollment. The participants completed tests to measure memory, verbal abilities, processing speed, and attention.
One of the tests to measure attention had the women look at a list of words in different colors and were asked to say the color rather than the word. According to the researchers, those with polycystic ovary syndrome had an average score of 11% lower than those without the condition. After adjusting for race, age, and education those with the condition had lower scores on 3 out of 5 tests that were given, specifically in areas of memory, attention, and verbal abilities compared to their unaffected counterparts.
25 and 30 years later a group of 291 participants underwent branscans, of these participants, 25 had polycystic ovary syndrome. The scan looked at the integrity of the white matter pathways in the brain by focusing on the movement of water molecules in the brain tissue. The analysis revealed that those with the condition had lower white matter integrity which may indicate early evidence of brain aging.
"Additional research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine how this change occurs, including looking at changes that people can make to reduce their chances of thinking and memory problems," Huddleston said. "Making changes like incorporating more cardiovascular exercise and improving mental health may serve to also improve brain aging for this population."
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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