Women are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than men. Researchers initially drew a connection to the fact that women generally live longer than men. It has been discovered, however, that the increased risk of dementia in women are a result of other contributing factors to the diagnosis that go beyond longevity.
Roberta Diaz Brinton, a University of Southern California professor who studies gender differences said, “It is true that age is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease.” But, she went on to say, “on average, women live for five years longer than men, and we know that Alzheimer’s is a disease that starts 20 years before the diagnosis.”
Researchers found that women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than they are to develop breast cancer.
Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, said of these risks: “There are enough biological questions pointing to increased risk in women that we need to delve into and find out why. There is a lot that is not understood and not known. It’s time we did something about it.”
Suggestions were made that a lack of oestrogen after menopause may play a role in the onset of dementia. Controlled trials of hormone replacement therapy (HRT, which replaces female hormones) have not been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
This left researchers with no clear and concrete evidence as to why dementia is more likely to affect women.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine are reporting that women who carry the APOE-E4 gene, which increases the risk for Alzheimer’s, are more likely to develop dementia than men who have the same gene.
What we do know is that there are warning signs that can help indicate the onset of dementia. As your loved ones grow older, you should be on the lookout for potential dementia signs and symptoms.
If dementia in your loved one is diagnosed earlier as opposed to later, you could make a significant difference to their lives in terms of caregiving.
It is quite interesting to note that it is also predominantly women who take on the role of caring for a loved one with dementia.
Women are more likely to reduce their hours or stop working to care for someone with dementia, and some even feel penalised at work for taking on care responsibilities. Women are a force in the fight to defeat dementia as well.
Alzheimer’s Research UK is leading the world in funding pioneering research that will make a real difference to people’s lives – now and in the future. World-class female scientists play an important role in making the breakthroughs that will take us towards this goal.
While scientists may not have the exact reason why women are more likely to be affected by dementia than men, it is important to understand the contributing role players.
Age, longevity and biology have been scientifically unpacked as potential reasons.
While women are more likely to live longer than men and risk increases with age, dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and not solely by age. Biology, however, is arguably the biggest indicator. Two main biological factors include: Whether or not the lack of oestrogen after menopause is linked to the onset of dementia and why female carriers of the APOE-4 gene are at an increased risk of developing dementia than that of male carriers. “It is possible that the complex relationship of oestrogen to the renin-angiotensin system, which regulates blood pressure and has roles in cognitive function, influences a woman’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Following menopause with the influence of oestrogen on this system, a woman is at greater risk of high blood pressure and so perhaps also dementia, but we need to test this in more detail,” said Professor Patrick Kehoe, an Alzheimer’s Society funded researcher based at the University of Bristol.