Women have a higher risk than men of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so scientists are trying to understand why.
Figures released by the American Alzheimer’s Association this year show that two-thirds of Alzheimer’s suffers are women. According to research, women aged 65 and over have a one-in-six chance of developing Alzheimer’s diseases, while men have a one-in-eleven chance.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report from 2012 titled Dementia in Australia reflects similar figures, though it revealed some age discrepancies. While the majority of men (53 per cent) under 65 had dementia, an overwhelming majority of women (close to 75 per cent) over the age of 85 had dementia.
The conventional belief is that women are at a higher risk simply because they tend to live longer than men. However, scientists want to challenge this notion. Current Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show a four-year difference in life expectancy between men (79.7 years) and women (84.7 years.)
“On average, women live four or five years longer than men, and we know that Alzheimer’s is a disease that starts 20 years before the diagnosis,” says University of Southern California professor Roberta Diaz Brinton. “There is a lot that is not understood and not known. It’s time we did something about it,” she added.
Alzheimer’s Australia’s Dementia News is also investigating why women are at a higher risk. It hopes the results will assist in finding more advanced methods of prevention and care. Factors including genetics, biological differences in how women age (including menopause) and lifestyle factors will be considered. The three main hypotheses under investigation are:
- on average, women survive longer than men and are therefore more likely to develop dementia
- more men die from cardiovascular disease before 65 compared to women
- women have different hormonal physiology that may affect the risk of developing dementia.
Read more at Dementia Research Foundation.