White women whose genetic makeup puts them at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease are more likely than white men to develop the disease during a critical 10-year span in their lives, according to a study headed by Keck School of Medicine of USC researchers.
Study results show genetically vulnerable 55- to 85-year-old white men and women have the same odds of developing the memory-erasing disease. One exception: From their mid-60s to mid-70s, these women still face significantly higher risk. That may provide clues to disease causes and potential interventions among these women.
In the future, doctors who want to prevent Alzheimer’s may intervene at different ages for men and women, said Judy Pa, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of neurology at the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute.
“Menopause and plummeting estrogen levels, which on average begins at 51, may account for the difference,” Pa said. “However, scientists still don’t know what is responsible. Researchers need to study women 10, 15 or even 20 years before their most vulnerable period to see if there are any detectable signals to suggest increased risk for Alzheimer’s in 15 years.”
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