The number of pregnancies is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease

Eur J Neurol. 2006 Dec;13(12):1374-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2006.01520.x.


Epidemiological data show a higher prevalence of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) in women. The estrogenic deficiency in the post-menopausal period is suspected to be the cause of the gender-related risk of the disease, but studies on the estrogenic therapy and occurrence of AD were not consistent and sometimes contradicting. The aim of this study is to investigate whether a higher exposure to endogenous estrogens is associated with lower risk of dementia or not. Two hundred and four AD patients and 201 control women were considered. By interviews, we evaluated different variables, indirectly correlated to estrogenic natural exposure, as well as educational level and head trauma. These data were correlated in the AD group with the disease progression, as well as with the age at onset. Unexpectedly, we found a significant higher number of pregnancies in the AD than in the control group. Within the AD cases, the number of lifetime pregnancies is related to an earlier onset of the disease. As previously reported, we confirmed that the educational level is a protective factor and that major head trauma represents a risk factor in developing AD. The higher number of pregnancies and a less frequency of nulliparous women, indirectly relate the AD group to a higher estro-progestinic exposure. These findings suggest that it is the increase of progesterone or estrogens level--and not the estrogens decrease, as previously indicated by other authors--that could play a role in the Alzheimer's pathology.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Parity / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology