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Study reveals Alzheimer's risk may be greater for women

March 21, 2014

Alzheimer's and dementia affect a large portion of the senior population, with the Alzheimer's Association reporting that more than 5 million Americans have the disease. Although it is prevalent among such a large percentage of the nation's citizens, little is known about what causes the disease or how to treat it. However, researchers continue to pour time and money into studying Alzheimer's, hoping that their findings can help contribute to a healthy lifestyle for seniors. According to the recently released Alzheimer's Association 2014 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, not only are women more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than men, but they are also at a greater risk for having Alzheimer's than breast cancer.

Report indicates greater risk for women
Of the nearly 5 million people with the disease, 3.2 million are women. The report indicates that a woman has a 1 in 6 chance of having Alzheimer's, while a man only has a 1 in 11 chance. While factors such as genetics and hormone imbalances may also affect one's chances, researchers could not deny the strong correlation between gender and diagnosis. Angela Geiger, the chief strategy officer of the Alzheimer's Association, stated in a press release that research needs to be conducted in order to determine not only why women's risks are higher, but also how to prevent the disease from happening.

"... We know that women are the epicenter of Alzheimer's disease, representing [the] majority of both people with the disease and Alzheimer's caregivers," Geiger said. "... Well-deserved investments in breast cancer and other leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke and HIV/AIDS have resulted in substantial decreases in death. Comparable investments are now needed to realize the same success with Alzheimer's in preventing and treating the disease."

Understanding why women have the disease more than men
Geiger indicated that people of both genders were at risk for having Alzheimer's, even though more women have reported having the disease than men. While the report did not indicate the reasons why, several experts have weighed in to express their theories. Some scientists believe that since women live longer than men, their diagnosis of the disease can be attributed to their older age. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease studied the correlation between the hormone estrogen and an individual's chances for having Alzheimer's, but the results were inconclusive. The Alzheimer's Association recommends that people maintain nutritious diets and exercise regularly. Even though the disease cannot be fully prevented, keeping one's body healthy may help improve memory care and brain functioning.