Roughly two-thirds of Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are women(1). Researchers asking why have come to a startling conclusion. Women, they say, may have more to fear from the disease than men.
According to a study released at a U.S. medical conference, women with Alzheimer’s disease may face a faster mental decline than men with the same condition.
Two Very Different Experiences
“Our findings suggest that men and women at risk for Alzheimer’s may be having two very different experiences,” said Katherine Amy Lin, lead author of the study.
“Our analyses show that women with mild memory impairments deteriorate at much faster rates than men in both cognitive and functional abilities.”(2)
Researchers aren’t completely sure why women experience more devastating effects faster than men do when it comes to Alzheimer’s, but suspect it may have to do with brain chemistry.
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“The main risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are age and gender,” says one study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Discoveries in 2010.
“The icnidence of the disease is higher in women than in men, and this cannot simply be attributed to the higher longevity of women versus men… In this regard, it is notable that mitochondria from young females are protected against amyloid-beta toxicity, generate less reactive oxygen species, and release less apoptogenic signals than those from males. However, all this advantage is lost in mitochondria from old females. ”(3)
Researchers believe that an excess of amyloid-beta in the brains of women might be why women tend to deteriorate faster from Alzheimer’s disease than men do.
An “Unbalanced Burden”: The Need For Greater Awareness And Research
Angela Geiger, chief strategy officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, says that this information is not new, but that more research and awareness-raising efforts are needed when it comes to women and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Through our role in the development of the Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes On Alzheimer’s in 2010, in conjunction with Maria Shriver, we know that women are the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease, representing majority of both people with the disease and Alzheimer’s caregivers. Alzheimer’s Association Facts And Figures examines the impact of this unbalanced burden,” Geiger says.
“Well-deserved investments in breast cancer and other leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, and HIV/AIDS have resulted in substantial decreases in death. Comparable investments are now needed to realize the same success with Alzheimer’s in preventing and treating the disease.”(4)
Women in their sixties are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they are to develop breast cancer, says the Alzheimer’s Association, and there are 2.5 times as many women caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease as there are men.