The phrase "brain aneurysm" probably evokes dread, and with good reason. It refers to a section of artery that's weakened and at risk of bursting, an event which often leads to death.
A new study finds one factor that may determine your risk: The age at which you go through menopause. Research published in Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery found that the earlier you go through menopause, the greater your risk in your post-menopausal years. The greatest risk was found among women who hit menopause before age 40.
Scientists already knew that women were at greater risk than men, and that post-menopausal women were at greater risk than younger women. This study was designed to investigate the role estrogen plays in risk. One interesting finding: Hormone replacement therapy offered significant protection against cerebral aneurysm, a finding that adds complexity to the ongoing debate about the risks and benefits of taking hormones during and after menopause.
It's estimated that 5% of the population has some kind of brain aneurysm (though in most cases they don't cause symptoms or burst). If you have a family history, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
Here are some of the possible symptoms, according to the National Institutes of Health:
- Double vision
- Loss of vision
- Eye pain
- Neck pain
- Stiff neck
It's especially important that you know the symptoms of an aneurysm that has ruptured, as that's a medical emergency that can lead to death:
- A sudden, severe headache
- Confusion, lethargy, sleepiness, or stupor
- Eyelid drooping
- Headaches with nausea or vomiting
- Muscle weakness or difficulty moving any part of the body
- Numbness or decreased sensation in any part of the body
- Speech impairment
- Stiff neck (occasionally)
- Vision changes (double vision, loss of vision)
Although there's nothing you can do to change the age you go through menopause, you can reduce your risk by keeping your blood pressure in check and not smoking.
More on aneurysm: