January 23, 2022

Alzheimer’s affects men and women differently

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By Lynn Allison From Newsmax

More than 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and two-thirds of them are women. Women also account for 60 percent of caregivers of those afflicted with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Recently, the Society for Women’s Health Research Interdisciplinary Network gathered a panel of experts to review how each sex is affected by this devastating disease and how pinpointing these differences can help treat more effectively.

Here are a few of their findings as published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia:

  • Age is the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and women on the average live longer than men. However, some experts say that this factor alone doesn’t explain or account for the fact that two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women.
  • Depression is linked to higher dementia and women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men.
  • Women exercise less than men and fit people are less likely to develop dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study reported that women who were at a high fitness level were 88 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who were at a moderate fitness level.
  • Women have a higher caregiver burden than men — almost double the number — and are more likely to leave their job to care for a family member. Some studies suggest that caregivers have a higher risk of cognitive impairment than non-caregivers.
  • APOE genes associated with varying risk of Alzheimer’s disease are more problematic in women than in men. Women with APOE4, for example, are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than men. They are also more likely to have worse memory performance, greater brain atrophy and lower brain metabolism.
  • Women decline more rapidly than men. Women usually score higher in tests of verbal memory than men so the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is usually delayed. By the time women are diagnosed with the condition, they already have developed a more severe disease than men and therefore decline faster. The expert panel suggests that more accurate tests to diagnose the disease would benefit women.

In addition, at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference held in July in Chicago, researchers revealed blockbuster new statistics on the links between women and Alzheimer’s disease, specifically, their reproductive pattern.

They found a link between lower risk for dementia and the number of births a woman has. Women with three or more births had a 12 percent lower risk of developing cognitive issues than a woman with only one child, according to studies of nearly 15,000 women.

Surprisingly, women with three or more miscarriages had 47 percent higher risk of dementia.

Experts state that more research is needed into the gender differences of how Alzheimer’s affects both men and women so that truly individualized care and treatment may be developed in the future specific to each sex.

IMAGE: Getty Images

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