According to research presented at the 2015 Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Washington, D.C., there are large disparities in the trajectory of aging-related cognitive decline between men and women. Women who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a sign of increased Alzheimer's and dementia risk, experience twice the rate of cognitive decline as men, making early diagnoses and interventions for them all the more important.
The researchers in this study used data collected from 398 participants with MCI enrolled in the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a large national study of Alzheimer's. The participants were tracked for eight years.
The study found that women with MCI decline at about double the rate that men do, based on standard memory tests and spouses' and caregivers' reports. As the study progressed, women's cognitive decline only became more accelerated as compared to men's.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, these results should come as no surprise. Two-thirds of seniors with Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. are women, and women have a one in six chance of developing the disease after age 65, whereas men have only a one in 11 chance. Alzheimer's presents an even greater risk to women over 60 than breast cancer, with twice the number of women developing Alzheimer's as those who develop cancer.
"Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer's, and there is an urgent need to understand if differences in brain structure, disease progression, and biological characteristics contribute to higher prevalence and rates of cognitive decline," said Alzheimer's Association Director of Medical and Scientific Operations Heather Snyder in a statement.
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