About two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease are women. By the age of 65, women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing AD while men have a 1 in 11 chance. New research recently read by Caledon elderly home care professionals now has scientists questioning the conventional wisdom that this is because women usually live longer than men. According to several studies published over the last few years, women’s brains are more vulnerable to AD and other cognitive problems.
A study published in 2015 found that women with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer’s, usually decline about twice as fast as men. While people with mild cognitive impairment can still live independently, they have a higher chance of developing AD.
This study, conducted by researchers at Duke University in the United States, involved examining 400 people with mild cognitive impairment. Researchers used an 11-part test to diagnose Alzheimer’s and memory problems. They found women declined at a rate of more than 2 points a year on the test. By comparison, men declined at a rate of 1 point per year.
Another study found that women have more amyloid plaques, a hallmark of AD, than men of the same age and cognitive level. Researchers found this to be true even among women who did not carry the APOE-e4 gene that doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s in women. Men who carried the APOE-e4 gene were only slightly more likely to develop dementia.
Researchers still haven’t found a particular cause for women to be more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and dementia but it may be related to the rate at which brain cells die, genetics, or how estrogen interacts with genes. Estrogen may offer a protective benefit against dementia as taking estrogen in the early stage of menopause can lower the risk of AD while taking estrogen later in life can raise the risk.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be frightening. If you and your senior loved one aren’t sure what comes next, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We’re a trusted provider of Caledon Alzheimer’s care and can provide you, your family, and your loved one with the help and resources you need through each stage of the disease. To learn more, please give us a call at 905-951-8885 and speak with an experienced Care Manager.