Women descend into alzheimer's at twice the speed of men: study

July 21, 2015 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Women descend into alzheimer's  at twice the speed of men: study
Investigators find gender differences in progression from mild cognitive impairment.

(HealthDay)—Women with mild thinking and memory problems—known as mild cognitive impairment—deteriorate twice as fast mentally as men with the same condition, according to new research.

Mild cognitive impairment isn't severe enough to interfere with daily life, but it is linked to higher odds of developing Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, the researchers said.

"Our findings do suggest greater vulnerability in women with stage, which is more severe than normal memory loss and is an intermediary stage between aging and dementia," said lead researcher Katherine Lin, a clinical research scholar at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Several factors may account for this increased vulnerability among women, Lin added. Women may be genetically predisposed to developing more plaque in the brain, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer's, or perhaps there is an as-yet-unknown genetic cause, she said.

To determine the reasons, gender-specific research into Alzheimer's disease needs to become a priority, Lin said. "Potentially, Alzheimer's prevention trials could test treatment effects separately by gender," she suggested.

The results of her study were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, in Washington, D.C. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Dr. Luca Giliberto, an Alzheimer's investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., offered another theory: "Women may have better cognitive reserve than men—that is, more connections between brain cells," Giliberto said.

Because of this greater mental reserve, it's possible that women may start declining later than men, but progress faster once the fall-off begins, he said. In addition, Giliberto said there might be a hormonal component to the speed of decline, perhaps associated with estrogen levels.

For the study, Lin and colleagues collected data on 400 men and women with thinking and memory problems who took part in the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Participants were in their mid-70s at the start of the study.

In up to eight years of follow-up, the thinking and memory of women deteriorated twice as fast as in men, according to a standard test called the Mini Mental State Examination. On that test, the rate of mental slippage in men was 1.05 points a year, in women 2.3 points annually.

For men and women with a specific gene mutation—called the ApoE4 Alzheimer's risk gene—the rate of mental decline was even faster, the researchers said.

Dean Hartley, director of science initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association, agreed that more research is needed to understand gender discrepancies related to Alzheimer's, which is the most common form of dementia.

Hartley said that women make up 75 percent of those who develop Alzheimer's disease. "We also know that 75 percent of the caregivers are women, so women are carrying a big burden," he said.

Women live longer than men. By the time they start having memory and thinking problems, they are at a later stage in life and that might account for the faster decline, Hartley said. It's also possible that biological differences between the sexes are at work, he added.

"The Alzheimer's Association is looking at these differences because it might affect how we need to treat these people," he said.

Explore further: Could a saliva test help spot alzheimer's?

More information: The U.S. National Institutes of Health outlines the warning signs of Alzheimer's.

Related Stories

Could a saliva test help spot alzheimer's?

July 20, 2015
(HealthDay)—It's still very early, but scientists say a test based on a patient's saliva might someday help detect Alzheimer's disease.

Women with Alzheimer's deteriorate faster than men

August 24, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Women with Alzheimer's show worse mental deterioration than men with the disease, even when at the same stage of the condition, according to researchers from the University of Hertfordshire.

Too much TV, too little exercise when young may hasten mental decline later

July 20, 2015
(HealthDay)—Take heed, couch potatoes: Excessive TV time in young adulthood might raise your odds for mental decline decades later, a new study suggests.

Widowhood may delay dementia in some seniors, study finds

July 14, 2014
(HealthDay)—Losing a spouse may be linked to multiple health issues, but dementia isn't one of them, according to a new study.

Levels of iron could be linked to progression to Alzheimer's disease, according to study

May 20, 2015
Higher levels of ferritin, an iron storage protein, may be associated with the transition from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer's disease, according to new research published today in Nature Communications.

New questions about why more women than men have Alzheimer's

June 28, 2015
Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's disease are women, and now some scientists are questioning the long-held assumption that it's just because they tend to live longer than men.

Recommended for you

Researchers reveal new details on aged brain, Alzheimer's and dementia

November 21, 2017
In a comprehensive analysis of samples from 107 aged human brains, researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, UW Medicine and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute have discovered details that ...

Dementia study sheds light on how damage spreads through brain

November 20, 2017
Insights into how a key chemical disrupts brain cells in a common type of dementia have been revealed by scientists.

Researchers describe new biology of Alzheimer's disease

November 20, 2017
In a new study, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) describe a unique model for the biology of Alzheimer's disease (AD) which may lead to an entirely novel approach for treating the disease. The findings ...

Study shows video games could cut dementia risk in seniors

November 16, 2017
Could playing video games help keep the brain agile as we age?

New player in Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis identified

November 14, 2017
Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have shown that a protein called membralin is critical for keeping Alzheimer's disease pathology in check. The study, published in Nature Communications, ...

Biomarker may predict early Alzheimer's disease

November 10, 2017
Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified a peptide that could lead to the early detection of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The discovery, published in Nature Communications, may ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.