Updated: May 4
Some health conditions affect men more than women, or vice versa. Women, for example, get breast cancer more frequently than men. They’re also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease more often. Men, however, get Vascular Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia more often than women.
Experts understand some reasons why certain types of Dementia affect men or women more frequently, but more research is needed to uncover additional answers. Here’s what we know so far:
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
Experts aren’t sure why Alzheimer’s disease – the most common cause of Dementia – affects women more frequently than men.
“For a long time, it was thought that rates of Dementia were higher in women because women have tended to live longer than men,” says Rehan Aziz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “As they reanalyze the data, researchers have felt that it’s more than that – that there are other differences accounting for the increased risk.”
Several possible risk factors include:
Hormones. Estrogen may protect against Dementia, but estrogen levels drop during menopause. Early menopause may increase Alzheimer’s risk.
Tau. Accumulations of this protein within the brain may cause Alzheimer’s. Some research suggests that tau acts differently in women’s brains, increasing risk.
Genes. Women with the genetic mutation APOE4 may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than men with the mutation.
Vascular Dementia (VaD)
People may develop Vascular Dementia if blood flow to their brain becomes interrupted over time. Often, people experience mini-strokes that impact blood flow. They’re at greater risk if they have heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels, or if they’re smokers.
“Men are... at [higher] risk for having those vascular risk factors, and as a result, have a higher risk of Vascular Dementia,” Aziz says. “There’s [also] a difference in the smoking rate – 17 percent of adult men [versus] 14 percent of adult females.”
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)
One study, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, found that between the ages 70 and 79 – the decade when Dementia with Lewy bodies is most commonly diagnosed – men receive a diagnosis about four times as frequently as women. Researchers haven’t pinpointed reasons why this form of Dementia is more prevalent in men than women; more research is needed.
Frontotemporal Dementia/Degeneration (FTD)
Symptoms typically start between the ages of 40 and 65, but it is generally thought that FTD affects men and women equally.
Lisa Fields is a full-time freelance writer who specializes in health, psychology, sleep, nutrition, and fitness. Her work has been published by Reader’s Digest, WebMD, Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping, Self, and many other publications. Learn more about Lisa at https://www.writtenbylisafields.com.
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