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Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is characterized by chronic symptoms such as late periods or excessive body hair. Now, new research has revealed another potential effect: later cognitive impairment in life.

The scientific report is “one of the few studies. Examination of cognitive functions and brain effects in those middle-aged women,” Dr. Paul McKee, professor and director of the Women’s Mental Health Research Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in an email. McKee was not involved in the study, which was published Wednesday. In the Journal of Neurology.

Polycystic ovary syndrome Refers to symptoms related to hormonal imbalance in women assigned to childbirth. According to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, they can include “menstrual cycle changes, skin changes such as facial and body hair and acne, abnormal growths in the ovaries, and infertility.”

Chronic disease affects 8 to 13 percent of women and girls of reproductive age worldwide. World Health OrganizationBut 70% of women may have PCOS undiagnosed.

The new study involved 907 female participants, aged 18 to 30 at the start of the study, and followed up for 30 years. Study participants completed tests on memory, verbal skills, attention and processing speed. On the concentration test, 66 men with PCOS scored an average of 11% lower. Those with the condition also scored lower on memory and verbal skills.

“While (PCOS) is associated with metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes that can lead to heart problems, little is known about how this condition affects brain health,” said Dr. Heather G. Huddleston, MD, director of the University of California, San Francisco. PCOS Clinic and Research Program, In a news release. Huddleston is the first author of the study.

“Our results suggest that people with this disorder have lower memory and thinking skills and subtle cognitive changes in midlife. This can affect a person’s quality of life, career success and financial security on many levels.”

The authors also found, through brain scans, that compared to those without PCOS, 25 people with the condition had weaker white matter, which could be an indicator of brain aging. White matter It’s made. Combined nerve fibers And it helps coordinate communication between different brain regions.

The findings “highlight potential cognitive vulnerabilities in women with PCOS, although it’s important to recognize that these are cognitive deficits, not disorders,” Maki said. “In other words, they’re performing worse than other women on these tests, but they’re not performing in the impaired range.”

The study’s several limitations mean the findings should be interpreted with caution, experts say.

For one, the study showed a link between PCOS and cognitive decline, but did not prove that the condition causes cognitive decline, the authors said. Second, it was not the doctor’s opinion that led to the diagnosis of PCOS, but androgen levels and participants’ recall of their symptoms. High androgen levels are one of the characteristics that PCOS doctors look for in the diagnosis process.

“Essentially, what we’re seeing here is what happens when PCOS goes untreated,” says Matja Perovic, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology. “This is important for any concerned readers to remember. If they are managing their PCOS symptoms, they are doing a lot to protect their brain health.

Dr. Wiebke Art, an endocrinologist who was not involved in the study, had concerns about the authors’ diagnostic criteria.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is diagnosed by abnormal criteria, such as androgens greater than the 75th centile of the reference range, Art, head of the Institute of Clinical Sciences at Imperial College London, said in an email. “Usually this will be above the 95th reference range.”

Given these limitations, more research is needed to confirm the findings and learn how these changes occur, Huddleston said, “including looking at the changes people make to reduce their ability to think and remember.”

But now some experts have at least the first level Ideas about possible mechanisms of the relationship between PCOS and cognitive decline.

However, “the mechanism behind accelerated cognitive aging is that metabolic disorders—insulin resistance, inflammation, impaired glucose tolerance—affect not only blood vessels and the heart, but every organ, including the brain,” said Dr. Catherine Sheriff, professor of medicine. Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study, via email

Dr. Ricardo Aziz, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not involved in the research, said genetics may play a role in the link between PCOS and cognitive decline.

Managing PCOS and brain health

There is currently no cure for PCOS, but there are medical and lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms.

“We all want to bring a healthy brain into late life to help fight diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease,” McKee said. “So for women with PCOS, they need to protect their brain health Controlling their diabetesGood exercise, blood pressure control, maintenance their cholesterol levels In a healthy region and perhaps (if) future studies will confirm these findings, maintaining androgen levels in the normal range in old age.

Sheriff echoed these sentiments.

“Most girls and women are prescribed birth control pills and told to ‘lose weight,’ but aggressive treatment of metabolic disorders is the best way to control PCOS and prevent cognitive decline.”

Other important treatments include: Improve sleep quality And Muscle strengthAnd talk to your doctor about any medications or supplements that may be helpful, she added.