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New Alzheimer’s Risk Factor for Women

A hormone that affects thyroid gland function and thyroid hormone levels may cause women to have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The report, found in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests women with low or high levels of the hormone thyrotropin appear to have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A clinically detectable over- or under-active thyroid has long been recognized as a potentially reversible cause of cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) impairment, according to background information in the article.

Previous studies have examined whether levels of thyrotropin, a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland and helps regulate thyroid gland function, is associated with cognitive performance in individuals with normal thyroid function. However, results have been inconsistent.

Zaldy S. Tan, M.D., M.P.H., of Hebrew SeniorLife, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues measured thyrotropin levels in 1,864 individuals (average age 71) without cognitive problems between 1977 and 1979.

Participants—part of the community-based Framingham Study—were assessed for dementia at that time and again every two years.

Over an average of 12.7 years of follow-up, 209 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. After adjusting for other related factors, the researchers found that women with the lowest (less than 1 milli-international unit per liter) and highest (more than 2.1 milli-international units per liter) levels of thyrotropin had more than double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

However, no relationship was observed between thyrotropin levels and Alzheimer’s disease risk in men.

“Whether altered thyrotropin levels occur before or after the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the neuropathologic mechanism is unclear,” the authors write. Changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease may cause a reduction in the amount of thyrotropin released or changes in the body’s responsiveness to the hormone.

Alternatively, low or high thyrotropin levels could damage neurons or blood vessels, leading to cognitive difficulties.

“In conclusion, low and high thyrotropin levels were associated with an increased risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease in women but not in men,” the authors conclude.

“These findings should be considered hypothesis–generating and should be validated in other populations before clinical conclusions are drawn.”

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

New Alzheimer’s Risk Factor for Women

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). New Alzheimer’s Risk Factor for Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/07/29/new-alzheimers-risk-factor-for-women/2666.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.