Posted on: May 15, 2017
Dementia disproportionally impacts women in two ways: women are more likely than men to provide care to a relative with dementia, and women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with dementia.
Scientific American recently published Alzheimer’s Falls More Heavily on Women Than on Men. The article explains that 2.5 times more women than men provide 24-hour care to a relative with Alzheimer’s. Nearly 19% of these women had to quit working to be able to provide this care.
Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. An estimated 3.3 million women aged 65 and older in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association’s 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures states that the prevailing view on why more women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than men is because women typically live longer than men, and older age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. However, the report goes on to explain that researchers are exploring whether the risk of Alzheimer’s is higher for women due to biological or genetic variations, or differences in life experiences.
Neuroscientist Roberta Diaz Brinton leads a research project funded by the Alzheimer’s Association that focuses on the interplay between hormones and genes in Alzheimer’s. Briton and her colleagues are investigating whether the loss of estrogen in post-menopausal women, who carry the Alzheimer’s risk gene APOEe4, leads to more significant brain cell damage compared to the loss of estrogen in post-menopausal women who do not carry the genetic marker.
Other research suggests there may be differences between the brain’s response to stress between men and women. For example, a 38-year longitudinal study examined the link between living through stressful events, such as widowhood or illness, and an increased likelihood of developing dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.
Research is continuing to help people better understand why women may be at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
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