The unsuspected impact of the ovaries on women’s life expectancy

The unsuspected impact of the ovaries on women’s life expectancy
The unsuspected impact of the ovaries on women’s life expectancy

Reading time: 2 minutes – Spotted on National Geographic

Each year, around 500,000 French women enter menopause, according to a Senate report on the subject. This period of life, marked by the cessation of ovulation and the disappearance of periods, occurs at the age of 51 on average and is notably accompanied by an increased risk of developing certain diseases. However, little is still known about the causes of menopause and its health consequences – although the situation is changing, National Geographic points out.

At puberty, an adolescent has approximately 400,000 ovarian follicles (ovarian cavities in which eggs develop), several thousand of which are awakened each month by the brain for ovulation – on average, only one produces a fertile egg. For a long time, this is the aspect that research has been interested in.

Ovaries and eggs secrete several hormones, including estrogen. The quantity of the latter varies with the menstrual cycle and reaches its maximum a few days before ovulation. When they come into contact with one of their receptors, they are able to activate certain genes and deactivate others. However, this does not only occur in the reproductive organs.

Limit ovarian aging

Indeed, the secretion of estrogen means that the ovaries play an important role in women’s health beyond fertility: they indirectly contribute to lowering blood pressure, protecting neurons, and musculoskeletal health. . Conversely, the drop in the quantity of this hormone caused by menopause increases the risk of cardiovascular, neurological diseases and even osteoporosis. The challenge for scientists, therefore, is to slow down ovarian aging. Moreover, women who postmenopause later live longer and in better health than others.

A moment in the life of the ovary receives special attention. Around the age of thirty, before the stocks of ovarian follicles are exhausted, the process begins to malfunction and fertility to drop. Before the age of 30, the chances of getting pregnant are 85%; at age 35, they drop to 66%. It was only in 2020 that a probable cause was identified: with age, the ovaries accumulate fibrous tissue (a characteristic phenomenon of organ aging) and stiffen, affecting the production and quality of eggs.

With a better understanding of the causes comes work on possible treatments. A 2017 study shows that the injection of rapamycin (an immunosuppressant) can extend the duration of fertility and improve the quality of eggs by limiting the activation of follicles; another, from 2022, that the use of antifibrotic drugs helps counter ovarian aging. These findings could, in the long term, increase the healthy life expectancy of women.

-

-

PREV cases are increasing during the spring, but what is it?
NEXT A “pediatric pathologies and pesticides” consultation open at the Amiens University Hospital