Researchers in the US have discovered a potential link between the removal of a woman's ovaries and her likelihood to develop Alzheimer's disease in older age.
Removal of the ovaries often accompanies hysterectomy and triggers a surgical menopause. In most cases the procedure is carried out as a result of cancer.
Scientists at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago studied more than 1,800 women between the ages of 53 and 100, a third of which had undergone surgical menopause and their research will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in March.
The women were asked to complete tests to assess their cognitive ability and memory, while the team also recorded the age at which menstruation started, years of menstrual cycles and the use of hormone replacement therapy.
The results of the study suggest women who undergo a surgical menopause at an earlier age experience an accelerated cognitive decline.
Dr Riley Bove from the Harvard Medical School led the study and she says there was a "significant association" between surgical menopause and plaques found in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.
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