For as much as we know about the human brain, there are still countless questions yet to be answered. One of them, according to researchers at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences in North Carolina, has to do with why women are more likely than men to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and almost two-thirds of Americans diagnosed with it are women. Moreover, at age 65 women without the disorder have greater than a one in six chance of developing it during their lifetime, while men of the same age have only a one in 11 chance.
In a study of nearly 400 seniors, researchers found that women experience a decline in healthy brain function at a much faster rate than men. And, once the early symptoms of cognitive deterioration (including memory loss and disorientation) begin to show, overall decline in healthy brain function tends to happen more quickly in women—about twice as fast.
Despite their findings, it is still unclear why women seem more vulnerable than men to Alzheimer’s and similar disorders. Possible contributing factors may include hormonal or DNA differences, as well as lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity. Duke scientists hope this and other studies may one day help with Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention.