Why are women more likely to get Alzheimer's disease than men?

Zee Media Bureau

One of the most startling facts about Alzheimer's is that women are at a substantially higher risk of getting the disease. Researchers continue to search for answers as to why women are at such a significantly higher risk over their male counterparts.

Traditionally, it was believed that since women live longer than men, chances of developing Alzheimer’s increases with age. Following are some reasons to explain why it happens:

  • Memory and thinking skills in women with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) declines twice as quickly as they do in men. MCI refers to a slight but measurable decline in cognitive abilities, which include memory and thinking skills.
  • Levels of amyloid plaques, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, in the brains of people across a range of cognitive ability, from normal to Alzheimer’s disease. Women were found to have more amyloid plaque in their brains than men of the same age and same cognitive ability
  • Changes in the brain that happen after menopause may make women vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease
  • Educational attainment and susceptibility to depression and other ailments affect women more than men. Recent studies show that women have a 70 percent risk of developing depression compared to men.
  • Researchers have focused on sex-specific genetic causes particularly a gene called APOe4. Men and women have about the same percentage of carrying this gene. However, recent research suggests that the APOe4 gene confers its Alzheimer’s risk unevenly in women. Women with the APOe4 gene are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease over women who did not carry the gene.

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