Sex Differences in Memory Function Video – Brigham and Women’s Hospital



Sex and Gender in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Need for Better Understanding

Alzheimer’s affects both men and women, but knowledge of how the condition affects each sex differently is sorely lacking.

By Brian P. Dunleavy

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Women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer’s during their lifetime, mostly because they live longer than men, and the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is advanced age.
Women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer’s during their lifetime, mostly because they live longer than men, and the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is advanced age.
Jeremy Rice/Getty Images

June 12, 2019

The title of relationship advisor John Gray’s 1992 bestseller suggested that “Men are from Mars [and] women are from Venus.”

Here on Earth, there are important differences between the sexes when it comes to their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and, ultimately, how the disease manifests itself in terms of symptoms and impact on daily living.

Now, a group of researchers and clinicians is urging the medical community to focus greater attention on these gender-based distinctions to enhance efforts to screen people for the condition and better manage their condition once they have been diagnosed.

“Both women and men should be attentive to the signs of Alzheimer's disease,” notes Pauline M. Maki, PhD, chair of the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) Interdisciplinary Network on Alzheimer’s Disease and senior director of research for the Center for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Dr. Maki served as co-senior author on a paper published June 12, 2019, in the journalAlzheimer’s & Dementia, which summarizes existing research knowledge on the impact of sex and gender in AD and recommends areas where future study is warranted.

Diagnosis of AD Delayed in Women

“Emerging research indicates that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in women may be delayed compared with men, because women start out with better memory for items like word lists, so they can do well on memory tests despite having markers of Alzheimer’s disease in their brain,” Maki continues. “It’s normal for memory to decline with age, but when memory performance begins to decline more than that of similarly aged individuals, it is advisable to get that checked out, particularly if the extent of memory loss is preventing the person from doing normal activities, such as driving to familiar places.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly six million Americans have been diagnosed with AD, and roughly two-thirds of them are women. AD is the fifth leading cause of death for women and the eighth leading cause of death for men.

Women’s Risk of AD Higher

Maki and her colleagues in the SWHR’s Interdisciplinary Network on AD believe that awareness of how the condition affects women and men is sorely lacking — both within the general public and the healthcare community. For example, while it’s well known that presence of the APOE E4 gene is the most common genetic risk factor for AD, more research is needed to explain why women with the gene are at greater risk for the condition than men.

“It's important that women recognize they are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer’s during their lifetime, mostly because they live longer than men, and the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is advanced age,” Maki notes. “It’s also important that women understand they can lower their own risk of Alzheimer’s disease … even if [they] have a genetic risk factor for the disease.”

Effects of Alzheimer’s Different in Women

AD also affects men and women differently, according to Maki and her coauthors. For example, after being diagnosed with dementia, women typically decline faster than men. They are also more likely to show outward signs of the condition.

Both of these differences highlight the importance of early diagnosis of AD, particularly in women, and suggest that men and women may benefit from different treatment approaches for the condition, the SWHR’s Interdisciplinary Network on AD argues.

A Call for Research on Sex Differences

To better understand the role sex and gender play in AD, Maki and her colleagues suggest that future research focus on the following areas:

  • AD risk factors that affect only one sex — namely menopause and the surgical removal of the ovaries
  • The influence of sex hormones like estrogen on brain function
  • The role of common risk factors, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, exercise, and depression, in men versus women with AD
  • How men and women respond to AD treatments

RELATED: Is Your Brain Fog From Menopause, Dementia, or ADHD?

How to Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

“Many people think that Alzheimer's disease is inevitable, but you can reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s by doing things like lowering your cholesterol, increasing the frequency of exercise, and taking care of mental health issues, such as depression,” Maki says.

“Engaging in physical activity is especially important for women,” she continues, “because that genetic risk factor is more strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease in women than in men. Women should also know the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease that are especially relevant to them.






Video: Sex and gender differences in brain disease | Antonella Santuccione-Chadha | TEDxCarouge

Sex and Gender in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Need for Better Understanding
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Date: 13.12.2018, 00:33 / Views: 72563