It is well known that as women increase their years, they also increase their chances of developing breast cancer. Now a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association finds that women are in danger of other disease as well: women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer. Additionally the risk of a woman developing the disease at the age of 65 is 1 in 6 – while the risk for men is 1 in 11.
Many theories as to why
No one knows why, but a common theory is that women have longer lifespans so they are more likely to reach the age when Alzheimer’s becomes more risky. Other theories suggest that women have different brain structure which puts them at increased risk for dementia of all types. Women and men also have a different hormone profile and studies have shown that sex-specific hormones have effects on the brain. Additionally there are gene variants which are associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s. One of them, epsilon4 variant of the apolipoprotein E gene – is more commonly found in women.
Investment can make a difference
“Well-deserved investments in breast cancer and other leading cause of death such as heart disease, stroke and HIV/AIDS have resulted in substantial decreases in death. Comparable investments are now needed to realize the same success with Alzheimer’s in preventing and treating the disease,” said Angela Geiger, chief strategy office of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Women at the epicenter of the fight against Alzheimer’s
Not only do women have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, they also are at higher risk for becoming a caregiver to someone who has Alzheimer’s. Of the people surveyed for this report, 63% of the people who self-identified as being a caregiver to an Alzheimer’s patient were women. The job is physically, emotionally and mentally stressful. They also reported lost jobs and strained family relationships as a result. “Women are the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease, representing majority of both people with the disease and Alzheimer’s caregivers,” concluded Geiger. More needs to be done to help.
Source: Honor Whiteman/MedicalNewsToday
Photo by Janet Ramsden on flickr.com