Did you know that women are more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than men?
A 65 year old woman is twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than a man at the same age. And at 75, it becomes three times as likely.
A 2012 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that approximately two thirds of people with dementia were female.
So why is this the case? Is it related to genetics? Or does it have something to do with how female brains are wired? Here are 3 possible reasons why.
One reason why there may be an alarmingly high rate of older people with Alzheimer’s could simply be because women generally live longer than men.
Further analysis of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research showed that age played a role in the gender proportions, with men being slightly higher for people under the age of 65 with 53%. However, when looking at people over 85%, women were 75% of all cases.
Women reportedly live, on average, six years longer than men – and there is the possibility that more women develop Alzheimer’s disease in their 80s because there are more of them around.
As old age is a factor that increases the chance of having dementia and Alzheimer’s, living longer will evidently increase the risk. Thus why women who are living longer are more likely to show symptoms.
As people age, their hormones levels are affected – in particular the sex steroid hormones. These hormones include testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone, as well as others. It has been suggested in the past that having these in reduced levels actually increases the risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease in both men and women.
The science behind this is that oestrogen and testosterone regulate particular processes, one that is particularly dangerous is that accumulation of amyloid beta protein. Amyloid beta protein, when built up, creates a plaque in the brain which is seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Because sex steroid hormones decrease more rapidly in women, because of menopause, that may be the reason why the dementia risk increases so rapidly in women 65 years and over.
However, it should be noted that trials of hormones replacement therapy have yet be proven effective as an Alzheimer’s treatment
There’s the possibility that women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s simply because men are more likely to develop other life-limiting conditions. Cardiovascular disease is one of the top killers of men between the age of 45-65.
Across all age groups, men have a higher rate of cardiovascular disease with the death rates being almost three times as high as those for females of the same age.
It should be noted that there is no definitive reason as to why more women have Alzheimer’s than men, and that all ideas discussed are hypotheses. Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that affects both men and women and can appear anywhere at any age.