Research at the Alzheimer's Association conference on women, men and the disease.
While definite answers remain elusive, a growing body of research — the latest presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Los Angeles — is uncovering the reason why two-thirds of the 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women.
“Women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease as both persons living with the disease and as the caregivers of those with dementia,” said Rebecca Edelmayer, director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association. “Over the last three years, the Alzheimer’s Association has invested $3.2 million into fourteen projects looking at sex differences for the disease and some of the findings today may explain risk, prevalence and rate of decline for women.”
In one study, the Vanderbilt researchers focused on tau structures in positron emission tomography scans from 301 healthy men and women, as well as 101 men and 60 women with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). They found the women with MCI had more tau network connectivity and accelerated spread of tau across more brain regions compared to men.
Another study found women may be at a disadvantage when it comes to earlier Alzheimer’s diagnosis. That's because women typically score higher than men on verbal memory tests, such as recalling words and lists, which involves the temporal lobe and hippocampus regions of the brain.
While that might seem like an advantage, the delay in diagnosis is a risk factor for women who may not benefit from pharmacological therapies and participation in clinical trials targeting earlier stages of the disease.
The researchers found 11 genes that may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s. Among four genes related to disease risk by sex, one showed more risk in females than males, while three genes found more risk in males than females. The researchers believe these four genes were connected to the immune system where sex differences are distinct. They have received a National Institute on Aging (NIA) grant to further explore these initial findings by reviewing 100,000 more genetic profiles internationally.
Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors Help Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
In hopes of addressing this caregiver issue, the Alzheimer’s Association reported on a University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing study on caregivers who had used the Association’s
The latest science regarding Alzheimer's provides more evidence that the brains of men and women are different. In 2017, the Journal of Neuroscience Research published its first issue that looked exclusively at sex differences in brain structure and function. For example, the hippocampus region of the brain holds short- and long-term memory, as well as spatial memory and learning, and it is one of the first regions in the brain affected by Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus is larger in women than men. The amygdala, which is associated with emotions and recall, is larger in men than women.Read more: HealthyWomen.org
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