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Is Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Higher for One Sex Over the Other?

Is Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Higher for One Sex Over the Other?
July 26
16:03 2019

From the many posts I’ve written about Alzheimer’s and other dementias over past few years, I have come to one conclusion – the greatest risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are tied to being alive and getting older. A friend of mine pointed that out to me when he said that dead people don’t get Alzheimer’s or other dementias and the younger a person is, the less likely the chance of developing it.

I’ve also written about other factors that may increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. There is a genetic factor as well as diet, lack of exercise and even injuries, especially to the head area. It also seems that some health conditions like heart disease and diabetes can increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Some studies have also tried to link the use of tobacco and/or alcohol to Alzheimer’s but those factors are still somewhat controversial.

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According to the Alzheimer’s Association:

Research shows that older Latinos are about one-and-a-half times as likely as older whites to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, while older African-Americans are about twice as likely to have the disease as older whites. The reason for these differences is not well understood, but researchers believe that higher rates of vascular disease in these groups may also put them at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

If all of this isn’t scary enough, new research is indicating that one sex appears to have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than the other sex. Can you guess which one?

Scientists are beginning to understand why Alzheimer’s disease affects more women than men and why the disease seems to progress more quickly in women’s brains.

The explanation appears to involve social, biological and genetic differences, researchers reported Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles.

One study looked at sex differences involving a toxic protein called tau, which tends to spread like an infection through the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

“We think it goes from neuron to neuron and goes from one part of the brain to the next part,” says Sepideh Shokouhi, a research assistant professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Researchers used special brain scans to compare tau in the brains of more than 400 men and women. Some had mild cognitive impairment, a memory problem that often precedes Alzheimer’s.

And in this group, a person’s sex affected where tau appeared in the brain.

“We saw a more spread-out pattern in women with mild cognitive impairment than men with mild cognitive impairment,” Shokouhi says.

That suggests that in women, tau is able to move more easily from one brain area to another.

“We think [being female] affects how tau spreads in the brain,” Shokouhi says. “We think it accelerates it.”

Another study reported by the same source found that working outside the home is actually good for a woman’s brain. The study didn’t say why working outside the home helped a woman’s brain, but the researchers suggested that it had to do with the cognitive stimulation, social benefits and financial benefits from working outside the home.

While women, Latinos and black Americans, may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, don’t forget that Alzheimer’s killed one of America’s greatest presidents, Ronald Reagan.

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