Alzheimer’s disease is growing. By 2050, the current number of 6.5 million Americans living with the disease is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. For further perspective, deaths from heart disease have decreased 7.3% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 145%.
The complexities of the disease continue to be revealed, but research has also uncovered another alarming fact…
Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
In a recent presentation sponsored by Ingleside Senior Living, Anne Ellett, N.P., M.S.N. noted the following statistics:
Ellett, founder and executive director of Memory Care Support, an organization which provides resources, education and services, also discussed the lack of research that is focused on women and Alzheimer’s disease. Out of 1,689 studies reviewed, only 22 were focused on women and dementia.
However, she did discuss two studies that considered the gender connection:
The Stanford University study: women who carry a copy of the ApoE-4 gene, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, were twice as likely to eventually develop the disease. Yet men who carried this gene had only a slightly increased risk over men who didn’t.
The Framingham, MA study: this research proposed that since men more frequently die in their middle years from heart disease than women, those men who live into older age may indeed have healthier hearts which could protect their brain from Alzheimer’s disease.
It was once assumed that women developed Alzheimer’s disease at a greater rate because they typically live longer than men and increasing age is the primary risk factor. But the numbers themselves don’t provide an accurate accounting so research is currently looking at other influences that may play a role:
But women are also more strongly connected to dementia through other avenues, including caregiving. Two-thirds of family caregivers are women who may also experience higher levels of depression and impaired health. This may result from spending more time caring for someone with greater cognitive or functional challenges.
Awareness and research for why women develop Alzheimer’s disease at such a greater rate is beginning to increase. The Cleveland Clinic has teamed up with the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), home of the first Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Fund.
There are also steps women (and men) can take to help better care for their brains and possibly prevent the disease. As brain changes begin decades before symptoms appear, adopting healthy lifestyle choices early can provide a great benefit. One study discovered people with a healthy lifestyle had an almost 300% lower risk of developing dementia than those with an unhealthy lifestyle.
Another example includes the benefits of following the MIND diet, where the focus is more on plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish. Those who only moderately followed this diet still reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 35%. Those who adhered to it rigorously lowered their risk up to 53%.
Along with exercise and maintaining a healthy diet, it might be helpful to become familiar with why people are consistently living longer when they reside in one of the world’s Blue Zones, suggested Ellett. Their common characteristics included stress-reducing daily habits, laughter, and close connections with family and friends.
Ellett also noted that while age is the number one contributor to risk, Alheimer’s disease is not a natural part of aging. Although to date there is no cure, she cautioned not to overlook the benefits of early diagnosis. People may avoid going to the doctor but there are several advantages that can greatly affect quality of life, including:
We hope you found this information helpful regarding women and Alzheimer’s disease. We’re here to answer any questions that you may have and invite you to download our complimentary information – Just the Facts: Your Guide to Memory Care.
We also invite you to visit one of our Ingleside senior living communities if you’re searching for the right place to live a high quality of life, for yourself or a loved one. We believe you’ll enjoy all the benefits that we offer, including:
For information on Ingleside’s Westminster at Lake Ridge senior living community located in Lake Ridge, Virginia, please call (703) 420-7105 with questions or to schedule a personalized tour today.
For information on Ingleside at King Farm senior living community located in Rockville, Maryland, please call (240) 414-8557 with questions or to schedule a personalized tour today.
For information on Ingleside at Rock Creek senior living community located in Washington, DC, please call (202) 846-2651 with questions or to schedule a personalized tour today.