Researchers found that the earlier a woman undergoes surgical removal of her ovaries, the more likely that there will be signs of early cognitive decline. These women had significantly higher rates of decline in memory, global cognition, and neuritic plaques. This study supports other findings that associate early surgical menopause to higher rates of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, cognitive decline, as well at all cause mortality (death from any reason). Typical for most studies of this type, no conclusions or reasons for the findings are made, except to say that it’s only an association.
My take on this study is that taking out a woman’s ovaries, whether or not there’s hormone replacement therapy, will cause a sudden decline in natural progesterone, which has a protective effect on the woman’s upper airway. Progesterone is an upper airway stimulant, tightening your throat muscles, helping to protect the upper airway from collapsing. Progesterone goes up significantly during pregnancy, which partially helps to protect the airway despite significant weight gain. It also drops just before a women’s monthly periods, and gradually drops slowly throughout menopause.
Having more relaxed muscles in the throat can definitely lead to more frequent obstructions and arousals. If your breathing pause is over ten seconds, it’s called an apnea. Lesser rates of airflow obstructions are called hypopneas. You’ll need at least 5 apneas and/or hypopneas to say that you have obstructive sleep apnea. However, you can stop breathing 25 times every hour and not officially have obstructive sleep apnea on a sleep study. Regardless of your score, it’s important to treat the breathing problems to improve your deep sleep quality. Lack of continuous, deep sleep (in addition to lack of oxygen to your brain) has been shown the cause memory problems, focus and attention issues, as well as many other common conditions.
For those of you who underwent surgical menopause at an early age, did you suffer any memory problems?