Women at greater risk from dementia than men
Women are far more susceptible to developing dementia and go downhill more quickly a new study has shown
Published 22/07/2015 | 08:38
Women may be at greater risk from dementia than men after a new study suggested that they decline mentally at a far faster rate.
Women suffering from mild cognitive impairment, which is a forerunner to dementia, appear to go downhill at twice the rate as men, US scientists have found.
Researchers also discovered that women are far more susceptible to developing dementia in the first place.
Figures presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Annual Conference in Washington showed that around two thirds of older people living with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
At the age of 65 women have a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with a 1 in 11 chance for men.
“Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s, and there is an urgent need to understand if differences in brain structure, disease progression, and biological characterises contribute to higher prevalence and rates of cognitive decline,” said Dr Heather Snyder, the Director of Medical and Scientific Operations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“To intervene and help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s it’s critical to understand the reason for these differences.”
There are 850,000 people currently suffering from dementia in the UK, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common type. The disease kills at least 60,000 people each year.
A study by 398 people by Duke University also showed that the rate of mental decline was two times faster in women than in men.
“Our findings suffest that men and women at risk for Alzheimer’s may be having two very different experiences,” said Katherine Lin, of Duke Medical School,
“Women with mild memory problems deteroriate at much faster rates than men in both cognitive and functional abilities.
“These results point to the possibility of as yet undiscovered gender-specific or environmental risk facts that influence the speed of the decline.”
The study authors and dementia charities said that urgent research needed to take place to find out why women were at greater risk.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“Considerably more women develop dementia in the Western world than men and this isn’t just because they live longer.
“This new research shows that women with memory problems experience faster rates of cognitive decline than men and are also more susceptible to developing dementia after surgery. Researchers are in the dark as to why this is - we still have a long way to go to unravel all the complex causes of dementia.
“Future research to understand why these gender differences exist could help us develop and tailor treatments for men and women with the condition.”
On Wednesday the first drug that can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease if caught early is expected to be unveiled
Trials have been ongoing into a new treatment called Solanezumab which appears to stop the degenerative disease in its tracks.
The results will be announced by drugs giant Eli Lilly on but if positive it will be the first drug proven to be effective for treating dementia.
Solanezumab, is an antibody which works by binding to the amyloid plaques which cause Alzheimer’s disease and clearing them from the brain.
Initial trials failed to show any benefit, but when researchers went back over the data they found that it seemed to work in people with mild symptoms and launched a new study.
Many organisations are currently trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Last year Stanford University announced that it had discovered that boosting the immune system could help the body to clear away the toxic plaques on its own. They are currently developing a drug which can boost the protein needed to trigger the ramped up immune response in the brain.
Imperial College has discovered how to turn off an enzyme which is driving many incurable diseases including Alzheimer’s and cancer. Scientists at Ulster and Lancaster Universities found that diabetes drugs Liraglutide and Lixisenatide prevent amyloid plaques forming in mice.