Researchers have found that women who develop slight but measurable deficits in their memory and sharpness of thought later in life tend to decline faster than men diagnosed with a mild impairment.

Approximately two-thirds of the five million people in America living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Part of the reason is due to the fact that women tend to live longer than men. Researchers have searched for years to find out other reasons for the disparity between the sexes, but have yet to discover a specific reason for this discrepancy.

Alzheimer’s Disease – Gender Differences For Women

Women More Vulnerable To Alzheimer's Disease-Compounding RX USAThe authors of the study presented their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington. They said their findings did not indicate anything about possible causes of gender differences and did not have any immediate implications for treatment.

Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (and the study’s senior author), said that all that could be concluded at this point was that, “there appears to be a faster trajectory for women than men.” Katherine Amy Lin, one of Dr. Doraiswamy’s students and a co-author, presented the study.

Steeper Decline For Women

The results of previous research had found a steeper decline in women with minor deficits after about one year. The new study extended that finding up to eight years.

In the study, the researchers analyzed data gathered on standard cognitive test scores taken from 398 participants. Most of the men and women were in their 70s, and were being followed as part of a larger, continuing Alzheimer’s trial.

The research team found that women’s scores slipped by an average of two points per year, compared with one point for men. The team took into account factors that influence memory and mental acuity, such as age, education and genetic predisposition.

Researchers also considered a standard measure of life quality. They rated how well people functioned socially; this included at home, work and with their family. This level also dropped at a faster rate for women.

Even with these findings, researchers will still need to conduct more work with a larger pool of participants to determine whether more women develop full-blown dementia than men. If this finding is confirmed, it will lead to more work and will change how Alzheimer’s trials are conducted.

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