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Women – A Greater Risk for Depression, Dementia. Here’s Why…

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Women – A Greater Risk for Depression, Dementia. Here’s Why…

AFL’s Mache Seibel, MD

There are definitely gender differences when it comes to psychiatric issues and substance abuse. Males are more at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, Tourette syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder and possibly schizophrenia. Because these often show up early in life, it’s thought they are caused or influenced by androgens and something that happens prenatally.

On the other hand, between puberty and menopause women are twice as likely to develop major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress. At or beyond menopause they are also at great risk for dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

In the past it was believed that the fluctuating hormones that are needed for reproduction also place women at greater risk for these problems. For example, about 3% to 5% of women suffer with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMS) and as women transition into menopause they become 2 – 5 times more at risk. Similarly, some women are also at greater risk for postpartum depression when the high levels of estrogen and progesterone suddenly drop.

Now a new study helps explain why. It has to do with brain levels of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A). It turns out that MAO-A metabolizes serotonin, a hormone that helps control mood.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry (August 2014), explains how this happens. The researchers studied 10 young women (mean age 28), 27 women who were perimenopausal (mean age 45) and 12 postmenopausal women (mean age 56).

The researchers found that younger women had the lowest levels of MAO-A. Women in perimenopause had 34% more and women in menopause had 16% more. The higher the levels of MAO-A were associated with crying and psychological symptoms whereas changes in menstrual cycle length were not.

This is the first study of its kind and it offers a real window into the relationship between mood, mental health and estrogen. It helps explain many of the challenging psychological symptoms many women experience in and around menopause and it may one day provide a marker for telling who is at risk for a major depression.

Click on FreeMenopauseHelp.com for a free subscription to My Menopause Magazine and discover important information for your health and wellness.

“It’s better to stay well than to get well!”  Mache Seibel, MD.

Dr. Machelle (Mache) Seibel is America’s health expert, addressing the critical needs of consumers from stress and weight control to menopause and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for almost 20 years and is a pioneer in many areas of women’s health and more. He works with companies and organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. His professional experiences include:

– Host for PBS and NBC TV episodes, frequent media expert;

– Repeatedly voted into Best Doctors in America;

– Past Editor-in-Chief of the medical journal Sexuality, Reproduction & Menopause;

– Distinguished Alumnus Award, the University of Texas Medical Branch’s highest honor 2008;

– Multiple national awards for research, writing, music writing and patient education;

– Professor, University of Massachusetts Medical School 2004-present;

– Director, Complicated Menopause Program, University of Massachusetts Medical School 2004-2011;

– Founder of HealthRock®, reshaping health education with health songs and entertainment;

– Past Medical Director, Inverness Medical Innovations (now Alere);

– Corporate Consultant and Corporate Health Expert Nationally and Internationally;

– Author/editor 14 books, over 200 scientific articles;

– American Cancer Society New England Division Medical Advisory Network;

– Advisory board of Dr. Mehmet Oz’s HealthCorps initiative to fight childhood obesity; and

– Nationally known guest speaker, key note speaker.

Visit his award-winning website www.DoctorSeibel.com and sign up for his free monthly newsletter.

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