It’s the last thing any of us want to hear and researchers are quick to point out that there are no medical implications yet, but a study has shown that for women the descent into Alzheimers may be steeper than men.
Researchers presented their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington.
The study’s findings don’t reflect a difference in brain chemistry between genders. “All we can say at this point is that there appears to be a faster trajectory for women than men,” said P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences and lead author.
Katherine Lin of Duke University and her colleagues examined the scores of an 11-part test typically used for diagnosing memory loss and Alzheimer’s. The 400 participants were mostly in the 70s, and suffered mild cognitive impairment — a loss of memory and thinking skills that doesn’t yet strongly affect someone’s life but can develop into Alzheimer’s.
They found women’s test scores fell by an average of two points per year compared to just one point for men. What’s more, the women’s quality of life – how they performed at home, work, and with family—also deteriorated faster than for the men in the study.
According to the American Alzheimer’s Association, two thirds of people with the disease are female.
While this can partially be attributed to the fact women live longer, it could also have something to do with women being more likely to experience depression, which is a risk for Alzheimer’s, and being more vulnerable to stress.
However, the reasons women are more prone to Alzheimer’s are still largely unclear.
“We haven’t done enough work parsing out some of the gender differences,” said Kristine Yaffe of the University of California San Francisco in an interview with NBC, “Probably what this is going to be about is a complicated interaction between genetics, hormones and the way the brain develops.”
Professor Lin says, “Our findings suggest that men and women at risk of Alzheimer’s may be having two very different experiences.”
Has Alzheimer’s touched your life? Would you agree with these findings that women suffer a sharper decline than men?