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3 Reasons Why Alzheimer’s in Women Are More Frequent Than in Men

3 Reasons Why Alzheimer’s in Women Are More Frequent Than in Men

Is it in the hormones, lifestyle, or their brain that made women more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s than men?

Alzheimer’s disease is one form of dementia affecting a significant number of older adults in America. Recent studies show that compared to men, Alzheimer's in women is more frequent. Across the country, 66 percent of Alzheimer patients are female. Scientists are continuously working to find the reason behind this phenomenon.

There are different opinions and studies on why women get this Alzheimer’s disease more than men.  However, from all points of view, nobody yet has pinpointed a clear answer to this matter. And as the population of baby boomers increases, the need to find what’s behind this phenomenon also grows.  Some say women live a lot longer than men making them more prone to Alzheimer's. Some say it's the hormones while others think it's in the brain.

 

To know more about why women, get Alzheimer's more often than men, here are some existing studies about it.

Vulnerable Brain

This issue was put on a spotlight by several studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C in 2015. In the presentations, the weaknesses of women’s brains were revealed

According to a study presented, women suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are bound to experience decline in memory and thinking ability. MCI affects a person’s language, thinking, and memory.

Another research from the Oregon Health & Science University found out that older women who undergo several surgeries have a greater risk of having cognitive dysfunction compared to older men. The study also found that among the two genders with postoperative cognitive dysfunction, indeed women’s cognitive function declined faster than men.  

According to Duygu Tosun of the University of California, women’s brains were found to have more amyloid plaques than men. The presence of Amyloid plaques is one of the evidence Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid plaques are sticky build up which gathers outside nerve cells. This is still the case regardless of whether the respondents have APOE E4 gene, the second risk factor for getting Alzheimer’s aside from aging.

Women are more vulnerable than men when it comes to biological features, according to Katherine Lin, the MCI researcher and Ph.D. student at Duke University. She based her research on the data from Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI, where they tested the cognitive capabilities of 400 adults with MCI for eight years.

From all the tests conducted and even after including the factors which contribute to the rate of decline in MCI like the education and age, Lin concluded that the cognitive abilities of women with the condition are more likely to worsen faster than men.

Female Hormones

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 16 percent of women aged 71 years and above are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s while men of the same age afflicted with the disease are only 11 percent. More and more studies are being conducted, and researchers make sure that even though there is still no evidence as to why Alzheimer’s in women are more frequent than men, the advocacy for this research is bound to grow.

Based on a published article by Lin and her associates, one factor worth noticing is estrogen levels and genetics. However, results of studies about this are contradicting.

One study showed that hormones may be capable of reducing amyloid accumulation that when estrogen in women declines during menopausal years, their risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s increases drastically.

Meanwhile, another research claims that if estrogen is ingested after a woman’s menopause, her risk of getting Alzheimer’s and MCI is also high.  

Based on Lin’s analysis of this phenomenon, it is best to take in estrogen before or during the first years of menopause so women can protect their brains because taking estrogen after menopause has an adverse effect on them.

Anesthesia

Anesthesia is known as a drug injected into our body to feel no pain during surgical operations. It can cause side effects on a person’s body and brain after surgery. It may affect memory and cognition for days or even weeks after the operation.

In a study conducted by Dr. Katie Schenning on postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), she found that when women undergo surgery and receive anesthesia, their brains shrink and her cognitive capabilities also decline faster than men who underwent the same procedure. She found this out in her seven years of follow-ups of patients who underwent surgery.

This kind of effect for most people who undergo surgery is normal and temporary because there are patients who have a high tolerance to the general anesthesia. The case of anesthesia causing Alzheimer's in women depends on the age of the patient. If she is old enough, greater risk of long term memory loss is possible.

The Need for More Research

Until now, we undeniably still don’t have a clear reason why Alzheimer’s in women are more frequent than in men  This remains an evolving issue for researchers continuing to study this phenomenon. There is a need to increase the number of investigators that would focus and expound on results of previous studies that relates genetics, lifestyle, hormones and biological differences as factors that may cause the high risk of Alzheimer’s in women.

Maria Carrillo, chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, said that there is enough to support this matter by using the conclusion they came upon.

According to Carillo,  Alzheimer’s Association is accepting applications to fund researchers all over the world with this specific concern. To help answer queries about the difference between men and women, they will fund $5 million worth of research grants in their program called, Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative.  

We all know how devastating Alzheimer’s disease is. We can relate because, in one way or another, we all know someone suffering from this. Experts researching more about Alzheimer’s in women may mean that the next generation may not suffer from the same predicament.

 


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