Cognition- Impact of Ageing and Menopause

Professor Cassandra Szoeke

Women’s Healthy Ageing Program

The strongest risk factor for dementia is said to be ageing and yet we see that whilst the risk of dementia doubles every five years over 50 years of age this model doesn’t hold over 90 with centenarian studies showing lower prevalence of dementia than the model would predict. There is a large body of evidence that a large proportion of the current cases of dementia are in fact preventable. 2/3 of all of these cases are women and considering our recent Global Burden of Dementia publication in Lancet Neurology which noted this doubling of risk every 5 years over 50 it is important to discuss the impact of menopause and specifically estrogen decline on cognition in women. Whatever your view on ‘coincidences’ this one is crucial to explore with respect to the growing literature on sex differences in cognitive decline in ageing.


Professor Cassandra Szoeke is the Principal Investigator of the Women’s Healthy Ageing Program, the longest running study of women’s health in Australia. She is Director of the Healthy Ageing Program, which is part of the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health (MACHcota) and is Councillor on the Australian Medical Association Victoria. Prof Szoeke is a practicing physician in internal medicine with subspecialisation in neurology. In addition to her medical qualifications, she has an honours degree in Genetics and Pharmacology, a PhD in Epidemiology and Ageing, with postdoctoral studies in Public Health and Policy. A clinical researcher for over a decade, she has over 200 publications and is a reviewer for national and international journals and funding bodies. She has received numerous national and international awards for her research work. She led the research program in Neurodegenerative Diseases, Mental Disorders and Brain Health at the Australian Commonwealth Science and Industry Organisation (CSIRO) and then became a Clinical Consultant to CSIRO. She has significant experience in governance and formal training including being a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She served on the board of executive directors for the Western Health Service Network, employed by the Victorian Minister for Health. In this role, she was promoted to Chair of both the Quality and Safety and the Education and Research Board sub-committees. She is a member of the chairs of quality and safety in the Victorian Healthcare Association. She sits on advisory boards for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Health.