Dementia affects men and women differently—and we’re just beginning to understand why

dementia grief lg
Image credit: Dementia.org

Globally, experts estimate that 75 million people will live with dementia by 2030 and 131.5 million by 2050. Most are women.

[R]isk factors for the disease affect women more than men. For example, more women develop depression – and depressed mood has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s. Other risk factors affect only women, such as surgical menopause and pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, both of which have been linked to cognitive decline in later life.

“Sex-specific prevention might start from having more of this information about female-specific risk factors,” says Maria Teresa Ferretti, a biomedical researcher.

Alzheimer’s is detected by looking for two toxic proteins that have accumulated in the brain. Evidence suggests no difference in the levels of these proteins, or ‘biomarkers’, in men and women with Alzheimer’s disease. But the women show greater cognitive decline.

Related article:  People with two copies of 'Alzheimer’s gene' at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection

As a result, the biomarkers “might have a different predictive value in men and women,” says Ferretti: “We might need to adjust imaging, biochemical and neuropsychological biomarkers for men and women or find gender-specific biomarkers.”

Research conducted with sex and gender at the forefront is already raising new possibilities for how we detect, treat and support the growing number of people living with the disease. Pinning down any differences could help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of our time.

Read full, original post: Why Alzheimer’s hits women harder than men

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