Unfortunately, no one is exempt from developing Alzheimer’s. It can be a devastating illness for anyone involved and is most likely to occur in men and women over 65 years old. However, it is believed that 5% of the population may develop symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s before then.
Although these facts may seem like common knowledge, something that is often not considered in healthcare is how the illness presents itself in men versus women. In this blog, Sova will explore gender differences in Alzheimer’s.
Are Women More Likely To Develop Alzheimer’s Than Men?
In short, yes. It is believed that women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s due to a range of genetic, anatomical and social factors. According to recent figures, 65% of cases of Alzheimer’s patients in the UK are female with it being the leading cause of death in women. One possible explanation for this is that women have a longer life expectancy than men, as Alzheimer’s usually develops in old age.
Alzheimer’s and the Brain
Another possible cause for women being more likely to develop the disease is due to anatomical differences between male and female brains. A new study by the Alzheimer's Association found that clumps of a protein called ‘tau’ could be responsible. The study looked at the way the protein was spread in the brains in groups of men and women. The scans discovered that it spreads more rapidly in women. When tau forms clumps in the brain, brain cells die - leading to memory problems. Since one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s is a build-up of tau in the brain, this could be another potential cause for women being more likely to develop the illness.
Alzheimer’s and Exercise
Research has also shown that generally, women do less exercise than men. This could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. One study found that women with a high fitness level were 88% less likely to develop the illness when compared to those of a medium fitness level. This suggests that exercise might be a factor in developing Alzheimer’s since it improves blood flow to the brain and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Since women often do less exercise than men, this could contribute to their increased risk.
However, there are many other social and biological reasons that leave you more susceptible to developing the illness such as having diabetes, age, sleep apnea, genetic factors, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, smoking and obesity.
How Does Alzheimer’s Progress Differently in Men vs. Women?
According to research, when you develop Alzheimer’s disease, your brain effectively shrinks. One study showed that, when comparing the brains of newly diagnosed patients, this atrophy of the brain happens earlier in women than men. Previous to their diagnosis, the scans showed that women had also lost most grey matter in their brains. This suggests that women’s brains generally degenerate faster than men who have the same illness.
However, despite these findings, the male participants appeared to have more issues with their thinking ability compared to their female counterparts. This could be due to the fact that men and women lose grey matter in opposing areas of their brains, which could affect their thought processes differently.
Although this may be the case, Dr. Clinton Wright, scientific director of Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, suggested that it may be too soon to jump to any conclusions about gender differences in Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Clinton Wright went on to suggest that additional information would need to be provided, as there may be other factors causing these results.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s and are looking for some in-home care services, then contact Sova Healthcare today. Our team of experienced and qualified caregivers can offer compassionate home care, domiciliary care and assisted living. With offices in Birmingham, Leicester and Bradford, we can provide home care services across the West Midlands, East Midlands and Yorkshire Regions. Find out how Sova Healthcare can help you today!