old hands
Hu Juan from Zhengzhou, the Henan province of China suffers from a rare medical condition known as Cutis laxa, which has made her to look like an 80 –year-old woman at the age of 28. (Representational Image)Lisa Edmonds/Flickr

A sudden rise in the oestrogen levels after menopause when combined with a history of diabetes can place women at greater risk of developing dementia, a French study says.

Oestrogens have a major role to play though out a woman's life, but the hormone production starts declining after menopause.  However, some women still get higher levels of oestrogen levels due to the excess fat in their body.

In the study, Dr. Pierre-Yves Scarabin, director of research at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in France and colleagues looked at more than 5,500 postmenopausal women, aged around 65 or above.

Participants underwent both neuropsychological examination and other diagnostic methods to determine dementia.  Dementia patients who were on a hormone replacement therapy were excluded from the study.

The study included nearly 132 dementia patients and 543 healthy controls.  Researchers measured and compared oestrogen levels in the participants. Prevalence of other factors that increase risk of dementia like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems were also taken into consideration.

Women with high levels of the hormone oestrogen had more than double risk of developing the brain disorder than others.  Additionally, suffering from diabetes was found intensifying the risk. Proving this point, researchers recorded 70 percent higher levels of oestrogen in dementia patients with diabetes.

"We found an association between high levels of endogenous estrogen and the risk of dementia in older women not using hormone therapy," Scarabin told Health Day. However, researchers added that they are yet to prove that high oestrogen levels caused dementia.

The study has been reported in journal Neurology.

Similar to the current study, a 2013 American study reported that dementia may be one of the end stages of diabetes. The Albany University study found that high levels of insulin involved with type 2 diabetes enters the brain, disturbs functions of important chemicals, leading to the formation of protein plaques and tangles, and finally damages brain cells.