New evidence suggests that women’s brains are particularly vulnerable to memory and thinking problems and Alzheimer’s disease. Uh-oh.
Duke University researchers reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C. that women with cognitive impairment, which leads to Alzheimer’s, seem to decline quicker than men.
The researchers looked at approximately 400 men and women with mild cognitive impairment in mostly their mid-70s. The eight years worth of data demonstrated that the cognitive abilities of women declined twice as fast as that of men.
Katherine Amy Lin, Duke University Medical Center team member, said that “women decline at almost twice the rate of men, and we also found that women have faster acceleration of decline over time.”
Another study, looking at approximately 1,000 people, found that women seem to contain more amyloid–the substance that creates sticky plaques in a brain infected by Alzheimer’s–NPR reports. Michael Weiner of UCSF and senior author of the study said that overall, “women had more amyloid in their brain than men.” Therefore, they have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
A third study showed that women who had surgery with general anesthesia are more likely to develop long-term memory problems than men.
Nearly two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s are women, CBS reports. And by the age of 65, women without the disease have a one in six chance of developing the disease during the remainder of their lives. There is only a one in 11 chance for men.
These studies help explain why there is such a large difference in men and women developing the disease. And the research was part of a larger ongoing study titled the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.
However, Weiner said that the reason why women’s brain cells are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s is still unclear. Weiner said that possible answers could lie in women’s genetic code, but it could also have something to do with their lifestyle, childbearing, exercise, hormones or diet. If researchers can discover the reason, scientists may be able to develop better treatments for women.
“To intervene and help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, it’s critical to understand the reasons for these differences,” Alzheimer’s Association Chief Scientific Officer Maria Carrillo said in a statement.