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Approved Research

Female-specific reproductive factors and the development of Alzheimer's disease

Principal Investigator: Professor Dongshan Zhu
Approved Research ID: 68369
Approval date: November 3rd 2022

Lay summary

Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects more women than men. Women with age greater than 60 years old usually are two or three times more likely to develop AD than men. Previous studies on the risk of AD in women or men were based on risk factors common to both sexes, such as age, smoking, blood pressure, blood lipid, diabetes status, heart diseases etc. However, these common risk factors cannot account for the gender difference in the incidence of AD. Female-specific reproductive factors, such as early menarche or early menopause, have been associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes. The associations between age at menarche, age at menopause, reproductive life span and AD are unclear. In addition, whether postmenopausal CVD and type 2 diabetes can influence the associations between female-specific reproductive factors and AD is unknown.

The aim of this study is to examine the associations between female-specific factors, including age at menarche, age at menopause, type of menopause (natural and surgical),  reproductive duration and risk of AD, and to examine whether postmenopausal CVD and type 2 diabetes affect the associations between them, and to explore how sociodemographic and lifestyle factors modify the associations between them.

The project duration will be three years. Findings of this research may enable the use of female reproductive factors as part of an integrated approach to the development of timely and targeted preventive health strategies, also may help us to identify women who are at high risk of AD. These women may also need close monitoring in clinical practice.

Scope extension:

To examine the role of reproductive factors in the sex-specific association with AD, and to examine whether the risk of AD is affected by an interaction of sex with other comorbidities (such as CVD and diabetes).

[New scope we plan to extend on Sep 6th, 2022]

To examine how intermediate cognitive decline indicators (cognitive function of domains and brain imaging indicators) were affected by an interaction of sex with life course experiences (e.g., trauma), lifestyle and comorbidities, such as CVD, hearing loss and hypertension.