While it’s true that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t discriminate, it’s also a fact that the disease affects women much more than men. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, women over the age of 65 have a one-in-six chance of developing memory loss, compared to a one-in-11 chance for men of the same age. Why is it that women have a greater risk of developing the disease than men? Researchers are still looking for the answer.
Cydney Hansen, Marketing Director at CountryHouse, a memory care community in Granite Bay, CA, says, “We don’t know why women are nearly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men. For a long time, researchers answered this question by pointing to longevity, the fact that women typically live longer than men. Since age is the biggest risk factor for the disease, it makes sense that more women would have memory loss, since there are more women in that demographic. However, with new understandings about the disease, we know that it must be something more than longevity alone.”
Much more research needs to be done to come up with the exact reasoning for the difference between male and female Alzheimer’s patients. However, some current research findings may lead us to the answers that can help decrease women’s higher risk.
Possible Risk Factors for Women
In addition to the explanation of longevity, current research has found several other factors that may explain women’s higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While these factors fail to tell the whole story, they may be helpful as starting points for further research.
- Heart Health – A study from Framingham, MA, suggests that men who live beyond 65 typically have better heart health, considering that many men die from heart problems before this age. Because heart disease and Alzheimer’s have similar risk factors (high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.), a higher number of women with heart disease could contribute to their higher risk for Alzheimer’s.
- Education and Occupation – Some studies found that those with less education (primary school only or none at all) increases one’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who continue education and further careers throughout middle or late-life. We know that cognitive strength and stimulation can decrease the chances or delay the onset of cognitive decline. Historically, women were less educated than men and more likely to take on homemaking roles than enter into careers, which could explain the higher risk for dementia. However, the education and occupational gap between men and women has been closing significantly in the past decades, so this explanation may not work for today’s and tomorrow’s seniors.
- Depression – Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men. While the link between depression and Alzheimer’s isn’t completely understood, researchers can trace depression to shrinking of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory function.
- Exercise – We know that staying physically active is a great way to decrease one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. On average, though, females typically exercise less than males. This can be somewhat explained by the roles women take on, being more involved in child-rearing and caregiving later in life.
- Caregiving – Speaking of caregiving, 60 percent of family caregivers are women. Studies show that full-time caregivers of a loved one may actually be at a higher risk of developing cognitive impairments compared to non-caregivers. Plus, female caregivers are more likely to alter their lifestyles compared to male caregivers, often giving up their job, moving or changing their living arrangements in order to provide care.
- Genetics – We now know of a gene that’s linked to Alzheimer’s, called ApoE4, that can help doctors predict if someone will develop the disease later on. So far, we’ve discovered that ApoE4 affects men and women differently. When studying females and males, females with this gene were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those without the gene. Men with the gene, however, were only slightly more like to develop the disease.
Closing the Diagnosis Gap
While any or all of these factors could help explain why women have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s than men, one piece of research seems to cause significant concern. According to a 2018 publication, the differences between men and women might be affecting how soon women receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. One of the main tests doctors use to screen for the disease is verbal memory function. Naturally, women are much stronger at verbal memory than men, even after Alzheimer’s disease has begun to take effect. This fact unfortunately results in more women failing to receive a proper diagnosis (and thus, proper care) until symptoms are much more severe. Authors of this study and publication urge care providers to create better Alzheimer’s screenings that take into account the natural differences between male and female brains.
Your Partner in Alzheimer’s Care
“Unfortunately, there is still no cure or prevention for Alzheimer’s disease,” says Hansen. “However, we’re hopeful that more research will help us better understand this complicated disease and eventually lead to greater diagnosis strategies and treatments. Until then, CountryHouse is fully dedicated to caring for seniors and families affected by dementia.”
If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease or hear about the latest research and care techniques, reach out to the CountryHouse team today. We’re happy to partner with you in your Alzheimer’s journey.
Treating people like family is at the heart of what we do.
CountryHouse at Granite Bay is the very first CountryHouse location in California. With a desirable location among Folsom Lake and the Sierra foothills, and only 25 miles northeast of Sacramento, Granite Bay was the perfect area to place our upscale memory care community. While CountryHouse at Granite Bay may be brand new to California, we are certainly not new to the needs of seniors. And just like every CountryHouse around the United States, we know that personalized care can make all the difference when it comes to quality care and peace of mind.
At CountryHouse at Granite Bay, we provide personalized memory care in an environment that is beautiful and thoughtfully designed. Full of natural light, warmth and tasteful elegance, we want residents and their families to feel welcome and at home. In fact, our staff members are even hand-picked based on their natural empathy. Our staff learns each resident’s story, from their likes and dislikes to their values and their pasts, in order to customize care and make meaningful connections that provide residents with true moments of joy and the desire to make the most of each day.
With our LifeCycles wellness programming, we encourage residents to connect, engage and enjoy every day. Our LifeCycles programming is designed to focus on the four dimensions of wellness: physical, social, spiritual and intellectual. We achieve this through a range of daily activities and routines, which can include daily bus rides, cookouts, trips and other special events. At CountryHouse at Granite Bay, we strive to make sure our residents make the most of each day, and we believe that when you treat people like family, and keep that at the heart of what you do, residents, their families and their health thrive. Contact us to learn more!
Connect with us today or call us at 916•850•2774 for more information or to schedule a visit.
CountryHouse is part of the Agemark family of senior living communities.