Women Are at the Center of the Alzheimer’s Crisis
Posted on July 31, 2015 by Jesse Hazel
Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s and the reasons remain unclear. According to the Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report:
- Women make up almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Among those aged 71 and older, 16 percent of women have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, compared to 11 percent of men.
- At age 65, women without Alzheimer’s have more than a one-in-six chance of developing the disease during the remainder of their lives, compared with a one-in-11 chance for men.
- Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.
Women at Risk Decline Faster Than Men
For years scientists believed that women were more widely affected simply because they live longer than men, however, new research focuses on biological and lifestyle factors.
Three studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2015 highlighted differences between men and women:
- Duke University researchers found that women with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) experience cognitive decline two times faster than men. MCI is defined by the Mayo Clinic as being “an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.”
- Older adults who undergo surgery with general anesthesia have a greater risk of developing long-term post-operative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). A study at Oregon Health & Science University found that among those with PCOD, women declined more rapidly than men.
- A third study by the University of California, San Francisco, found that women had more amyloid plaque in their brains than men of the same age and cognitive ability regardless of whether they had the APOE4 gene.
Women Make Up the Majority of Caregivers for Those with Alzheimer’s
Very often, family members take on caregiving responsibilities for those with Alzheimer’s and 60 percent of these caregivers are women. Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s can be stressful and impact the quality of life not only for the caregiver but for their spouse and children as many are part of a generation of people caring for both parents and kids. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and unpredictable, making it a complex challenge for a family caregiver. Many look to assisted living as an option to provide the support and care their family member needs when providing care at home becomes too difficult to manage.