There are over 47 million people worldwide suffering from Alzheimer's disease. In the UK alone, 1 million are living with dementia, with over 65% being women. As researchers continue to explore the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, gender disparity has become a complex topic. We take a look at some of the underlying factors, and why women are more likely to get Alzheimer's.
Age and Longevity
It's a well known fact that age is a prerequisite of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Women typically have a greater life expectancy than men, and the risk of dementia doubles every 3 years after the age of 65. Although it's easy to see why Alzheimer's disproportionately affects one gender more than the other, age is not the only factor.
Oestrogen is the main female hormone, responsible for promoting the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system and other body characteristics. Some studies have found that oestrogen may protect brain cells and that higher levels of oestrogen may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in women.
The Gut Connection
Recent research at the University of Chicago has shown that there are significant differences between the microbiome-brain connection in men and women. Some bacteria in the gut are linked to amyloid plaque deposits in the brain, which increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's. Although it's suggested that men have more protective bacteria in the gut, further research is warranted to identify which exact strain could be increasing the risk.
Stanford University found that women carrying a copy of the ApoE-4 gene were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as those who didn't. This wasn't the case for men, but it is believed that the interaction of oestrogen with ApoE-4 and its variances may play an important role.
A healthy heart has been found to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in both women and men. Although it's more common in men, high blood pressure in midlife is thought to increase women's chances of getting dementia. The Framingham Heart Study states that men are more likely to die from heart disease in midlife, meaning that those who survive past the age of 65 have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Dementia Care Workforce
Alzheimer's disease has turned into a global epidemic and the need for dementia care services is becoming increasingly alarming. If the disease progresses at the current prevalence rate, it is predicted that by 2051 there will be over 2 million people with Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.
While it's still not clear why women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's, it's encouraging to see that more researchers are concerned about addressing gender differences and why women are more affected by the disease.
Sova Healthcare are expert providers of Specialist and Alzheimer's Care Services. We understand the complexity of the disease, including how hard it can be to cope with symptoms of dementia and how dementia affects everyday life. With offices across the Midlands, Yorkshire and East London, we can deliver bespoke home care services to suit your needs. Contact us.