Scientists studied the brain function of middle-aged women and found that the presence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with a decline in cognitive abilities in later life.
According to the World Health Organization, this disease affects 8% to 13% of girls and women of reproductive age worldwide. Up to 70% may have this disease and not know about it, writes CNN.
Symptoms include an irregular menstrual cycle, skin changes (rash and increased facial hair), and ovarian tumors. In some cases, it can even cause infertility.
The study, the results of which were published in the scientific journal Neurology, involved 907 women who were followed for 30 years. At the time of the experiment, they were between 18 and 30 years old. The participants were tested for memory, verbal abilities, concentration of attention and information processing speed.
In an attention test, 66 women with PCOS scored, on average, about 11% lower than participants who did not have the disease. Those with PCOS also scored lower on measures of memory and verbal ability.
“PCOS is associated with conditions such as obesity and diabetes, which can lead to heart problems. However, little is known about how this syndrome affects brain health.” – said the lead author of the study, director of the PCOS research program at the University of California in San Francisco, Heather Huddleston.
She explained that “the results show that women with this disease have worse memory and thinking, and they also have certain changes in the brain.” This will have an impact on important areas: quality of life, career success and financial security.
After scanning the women’s brains, the scientists noticed that compared to those who did not have PCOS, the 25 women with PCOS had worse white matter, which may indicate brain aging.
“The findings highlight a ‘potential cognitive vulnerability’ in women with PCOS, although it is important to recognize that these are cognitive weaknesses, not impairments”– noted Pauline Maki, professor and director of the Women’s Mental Health Research Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
However, the study findings should be interpreted with caution. It showed a link between PCOS and cognitive decline, but did not prove that the disease itself causes brain decline, the scientists said.
“We can observe that what happens when polycystic ovary syndrome is left untreated. However, if patients overcome the unpleasant symptoms of this disease, they are doing a lot to support their brain health.” – noted Mateja Perovych, doctoral student of the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.
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