-- Randy Dotinga
THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Taking birth control pills
or hormone replacement therapy could protect women against brain
aneurysms later in life, a new study suggests, although one
neurologist questioned the quality of the research.
Cerebral aneurysms occur when a blood vessel in the brain
weakens and balloons out, potentially leading to a hemorrhagic (or
bleeding) stroke if the vessel bursts. These types of aneurysms are
more common in women than men, possibly because lower levels of
female hormones after menopause play a role in their development,
the study authors noted.
Brain aneurysms are more common after the age of 40 and are most
likely to burst when people are in their 50s.
In the study, Dr. Michael Chen, of Rush University Medical
Center, and colleagues interviewed 60 women who had experienced
brain aneurysms and asked about their use of birth control pills
and hormone replacement therapy, and compared their answers to
those from a group of almost 4,700 other women in the general U.S.
The women who had brain aneurysms were significantly less likely
to have taken birth control pills or received hormone replacement
therapy, and were also more likely to have entered menopause
earlier, according to the report published online May 4 in the
Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery.
Previous research has suggested that taking birth control pills
lowers the risk of hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke in later life.
However, women who either begin menstruating at an early age, don't
have children, or both, face a higher risk.
Because estrogen is important for the repair and maintenance of
blood vessel walls, a drop in the levels of the female hormone is
believed to be the reason for the increased risk to the structure
of these vessels, the study authors noted in background information
about the research.
However, commenting on the study, neurologist Dr. Cathy Sila
said the research is flawed and its conclusions overstated.
Other research is more reliable, noted Sila, director of the
Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center at University Hospitals Case
Medical Center in Cleveland. "Doctors are well-versed in the better
data," she said, adding that she hopes the study doesn't convince
doctors to change how they prescribe birth control and hormone
Another expert called the finding "interesting," but stressed
that more study was needed.
"[This] deserves additional investigation in a larger group of women," said Dr. David J. Langer, director of cerebrovascular research at the Cushing Neuroscience Institutes, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y. "Undoubtedly, women maintain higher risk of cerebral aneurysms versus men and the connection to hormonal differences between men and women may be a contributing factor to this preference," he said.
"Whenever studies like this are published one must be cautious in drawing broad conclusions, but the results do support more research in this area," Langer added. "One question one could have would be what the incidence of high blood pressure and smoking was in this group of 60 women, and how did that compare with the larger control group?"
In a news release from the journal's publisher, the study
authors stated that they believe their findings add to the
understanding of how brain aneurysms develop and progress, and may
spur new treatments for patients who either have an aneurysm or are
at risk of developing one. Current methods of treatment include
blood pressure control, quitting smoking, and possibly a surgical
procedure to try to prevent future rupture.
For more about
aneurysms, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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