Why Are Women At Greater Risk for Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s disproportionately impacts women, not just because we live longer – but for a myriad of reasons.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Dementia isn’t a specific disease. Rather, dementia describes a group of symptoms related to memory, thinking and social abilities interfering with their daily functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of a dementia in older adults, but there are a number of types of dementia, and they sometimes coexist
What is a Woman’s Risk Of Getting Alzheimer’s?
The lifetime risk for a woman to develop Alzheimer’s (after age 45) is estimated at one in five; for men it is one in 10.3. By the time a woman reaches her 60s, she has more than twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as breast cancer.
Younger women are at risk, as well. While still rare, diagnoses of early onset Alzheimer’s (age 30 to 64) climbed 200 percent between 2013 and 2017, and women represented 58 percent of the new cases.(1)
Older African Americans are twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s as older whites. Older Hispanics also have an elevated risk – about 1.5 times that of whites.
It is so important to empower women with the facts and information they need to protect their brain health.
Why Are Women At Greater Risk for Alzheimer’s?
A decline in estrogen around menopause prompts a change in the source of energy used by women’s brains, and appears to heighten the risk of dementia.
The gene APOE4, which helps transport fat into the bloodstream, may be a particular danger for women who have it. While recent evidence has been mixed, researchers who focused only on men and women between ages 65 and 75 found that women with that gene in that age group had a higher incidence of dementia. (2) Perhaps other genes may bear a relationship to risk for dementia.
A woman’s history of pregnancy and childbearing has emerged as an important area for research. The more time spent pregnant, and the higher number of children, may reduce a woman’s risk of dementia(3). But the findings diverge: Some research has found that having five or more children increases the risk.
Being depressed in midlife has been found to elevate the risk of Alzheimer’s for men and women – but women are twice as likely to become clinically depressed.(4) Unfortunately, stress is also a dementia risk.
UCLA researchers have found a faster rate of cognitive decline in women who never worked outside their own home when compared to women who did.(5)
Loneliness and isolation also may be linked to declines in brain health and the risk of dementia.
(2) E genotype and sex risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease: A meta-analysis” JAMA Neurology 2017; DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.2188
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