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Having kids can bring a ton of joy (and stress!) to your family. Of course, there are many things to consider before having children. Your family’s financial stability is one thing to consider. The overall health of the mother and family dynamics are just a few more things to think about. And, there are health risks associated with mothers at an advanced age, and risks increase with having multiple children.

However, there’s good news too. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers are at a decreased risk for several health issues. Diseases like stroke and heart disease pose a smaller threat for breastfeeding mothers. And, they also have a lower risk of developing type two diabetes and certain cancers.

Plus, a recent observational study suggests that women who have had a higher overall estrogen exposure in their lives, possibly by having multiple children, may be less susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

The study, which was first published in the November 3rd article of Neurology, examined the MRIs of 99 women in their late 40s to early 50s. It took into account the women’s reproductive history and the use of hormonal contraceptives and menopause hormone therapy, all of which contribute to the exposure amount of estrogen over a woman’s lifespan.

Women were given global cognition tests, memory tests, and MRIs to evaluate the correlation between gray matter volume (GMV) and the positive associations between a higher amount of estrogen. In previous studies, a drop in estrogen levels during menopause has been linked to a decrease of GMV in parts of the brain that are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

A Word Of Caution

“Our findings suggest that while the menopause transition may bring vulnerability for the female brain, other reproductive history events indicating greater estrogen exposure bring resilience instead,” stated study senior author Dr. Lisa Mosconi, an associate professor of neuroscience in neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the Women’s Brain Initiative, and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The findings of this study show that women who had higher estrogen levels had more GMV in areas of the brain that are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Meaning, that part of the brain was more protected from developing the disease, at least in midlife.

However, according to the study, “the effects of estrogen exposure on Alzheimer’s disease remain unclear.” So, while these findings are encouraging, more research and clinical studies are needed to further investigate the findings.

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