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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Dementia Versus the Sexes, Life Choices and Continuing Research

May 30, 2016 04:10PM

The dementia epidemic is increasing at a dramatic rate and education and realization of what we can do for others, as well as ourselves, is critical. Research shows dementia affects women and men differently. Dementia therapies, treatments and research all need to be personalized to succeed.

Women, who represent 3.4 million of the 5 million presently with Alzheimer’s in the U.S.—the most common dementia—display conflicting symptoms from men. They may become reclusive, emotionally unstable, hoard items and are more vulnerable to depression. Men, who fall into the remaining 2 million, may be more aggressive—physically, verbally and sexually.

Memory and thinking skills in women with mild cognitive impairment decline twice as quickly as their male counterparts. Evidence also shows that female hormones introduced at menopause may increase the risk of dementia. Women have been found to have more amyloid plaques in their brains, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. Conversely, studies have sited that men who have had a stroke are three times more likely to develop dementia, whereas women who have had a stroke do not display the same result.

Currently, there are five FDA-approved Alzheimer’s drugs, but they do not treat the underlying cause. In contrast, many of the new drugs in development aim to modify the disease process itself. Beyond drug research, brain imaging studies and blood and spinal fluid trials are being conducted to offer more insights. Other studies provide strong evidence that a higher education and better cardiovascular health contribute to dementia decline, as well as better control of cholesterol, blood pressure and lung health.

To help advance research, become a participant in an Alzheimer’s research clinical trial. Inquire at m.alz.org/clinical-trials.asp.

Wendy Annis is the founder and owner of Helping Hands Elder Enrichment Services, which provides one-on-one memory retrieval activities to those with dementia in order to improve their quality of life. Connect at 520-647-6947 or HelpingHandsEES.com.

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