A health issue during pregnancy has been linked to increased risk of later dementia, according to a large study published by The BMJ.
Pre-eclampsia, a serious condition where abnormally high blood pressure and other complications develop during pregnancy has been linked to high risk of dementia – particularly vascular dementia – in later life.
It is believed that cognitive decline could be caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels that result from pre-eclampsia.
In the Pre-eclampsia and risk of dementia later in life: nationwide cohort study, researchers analysed the health data of more than 1.1 million women in Denmark who had given birth at least once and had not previously been diagnosed with heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, or dementia before the first birth.
Results revealed that women with a history of pre-eclampsia were more than three times likely to develop vascular dementia later in life compared with women with no history of pre-eclampsia.
Most of the women in the study who were diagnosed with dementia were 65 years or older.
Researchers pointed out that, at the conclusion of the study, most of the participants were relatively young, with 90 per cent still less than 65 years old. Had the study included more older women, the authors suggested that the rates of dementia would have been much higher.
Regardless, the link between pre-eclampsia and vascular dementia is biologically plausible.
“This study indicates that pre-eclampsia is associated with an increased risk of later dementia, particularly vascular dementia, suggesting that pre-eclampsia and vascular dementia may share underlying mechanisms or susceptibility pathways,” wrote the authors.
Pre-eclampsia, which is dangerous for both mother and child, affects around three to five per cent of pregnancies. The findings of this study back up past research which shows that pre-eclampsia is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment.
The findings highlight the need for physicians to identify women who might benefit from early intervention.
Did you suffer from pre-eclampsia during pregnancy? Do you know someone who did, and was later diagnosed with dementia?