Did you know that Alzheimer’s Affects Men and Women Differently?

It is inevitable that all of us will grow older, but the same cannot be said about Alzheimer’s disease. Even though we cannot halt the process of aging, which is certainly the most prominent risk factor in regards to Alzheimer’s, there are several things that can be done to help lower the risks associated with dementia.

New Strategies for Treatment

alzheimers-diseaseOne big obstacle we face with reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and coming up with new strategies for the preventing and treating of this awful disease is our lack of knowledge as to why this disease differs between men and women. There are lots of clues in the data regarding factors that act very differently between the two sexes, including specific genes and hormones, and these particular differences could be vital avenues to research. A big problem, however, is that most studies that have been conducted on Alzheimer’s have combined data for men and women.

For this reason, scientists from the Society for Women’s Health Research Interdisciplinary Network regarding Alzheimer’s Disease recently posted a review in the publication Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association that recommends a more thorough analysis of research that is grouped by sex to spur new approaches designed to improve treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of Alzheimer’s.

Estrogen Discovered to Affect the Disease

We have evidence that various sex hormones like estrogen will influence the disease, but no one really understands how and why. The main source of estrogen is ovaries for premenopausal ladies, and when they are surgically removed before menopause, this is link to an elevated risk of dementia. But when estrogen therapy is utilized after surgery until the age of 50, this risk is negated. This suggests that estrogen is protective within premenopausal women.

However in men, conflicting studies have not confirmed whether or not androgen-deprivation therapy, which treats prostate cancer, will increase or decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s in men. More studies are needed to determine the role of these sex hormones, examine the use of various hormonal treatments, and understanding the manners in which each of them effect the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Regarding risk factors that pertain to both men and women, some are actually more likely in just one of the sexes. For instance, sleep apnea and depression are both dementia risk factors, but depression is actually twice as likely within women, while sleep apnea is more common within men. In addition, low education levels and lower level jobs are also increased risk factors for Alzheimer’s, but women haven’t been given the same access to job and education opportunities as men have, and this increases their risk level.

Gene Identified in Women that Elevates Risk

The e4 allele from the APOE gene is the most likely genetic risk factor of Alzheimer’s in men and women, but it offers a higher risk in women. Women that have APOE e4 have a higher risk of being inflicted with Alzheimer’s, as compared with women who do not have the allele or men that either have it or don’t have it.

Discovering how sex affects the levels of risk across a life span is also vital. For instance, regarding cardiovascular disease, taking a low dose aspirin will help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke within women that are 65 years or more. This effect has not been observed in younger women. It’s very likely that specific Alzheimer’s risk factors are strongest at certain points of our lives, and if we explore this link more closely, it could very well by the key for early intervention and prevention.