Approximately one in nine individuals older than 68 has Alzheimer’s, and this ratio increases to one in three in individuals older than 85. Women are disproportionally represented in the group with Alzheimer’s, making up more than two-thirds of all people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Until recently, most people simply attributed this to the fact that women live longer than men (there are twice as many women older than 85 than men, and this skewed ratio jumps even higher at older ages). However, as Vancouver Alzheimer’s care professionals recently learned, a series of studies have shown that even after controlling for longevity, women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Faster Decline and More Amyloid
An on-going study of individuals with mild cognitive impairment recently reported that women with the condition progressed far more quickly to overt Alzheimer’s disease than did men.
At the same meeting, another group reported their neuroimaging results. They scanned the brains of more than 1,000 people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s disease and found that women tended to have a lot more amyloid than men. Sticky deposits of amyloid in the brain are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and the amount of amyloid tends to correlate with the severity of symptoms.
General Anesthesia and Increased Risk
A third study found that after undergoing surgery with general anesthesia, women were far more likely than men to develop memory and cognitive problems. Studies in mice have shown that general anesthesia can be quite damaging to neurons involved in memory. Women seem to be more vulnerable to this effect.
Mechanism of Action
While there are many differences between men and women, including the number of X chromosomes, exposure to hormones, pregnancy, childbirth and nursing, lifestyle, and dietary choices, researchers currently do not know why women’s brains are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.
After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the future can feel uncertain, but know you and your loved one don’t have to face it alone. Reach out to Home Care Assistance and find out how elderly home care in Vancouver can help your loved one maintain health and safety in the comfort of home. Our Care Managers are available 24/7 to take your call and schedule a complimentary in-home consultation. Call today.