Dementia, which affects more than 55 million people worldwide, is far more than just forgetting things.
Causing memory loss, a change in behavior, or even losing the ability to stay alert during conversation, among other things, dementia symptoms become more noticeable with time.
Dementia doesn’t discriminate who it affects, but women are more prone to being diagnosed. According to the Alzheimer’s Research Initiative, a woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 45 is approximately 1 in 5 compared to 1 in 10 for me. There are a few thoughts on why that is:
- Women have been known to live longer than men, and since dementia more frequently attacks those of an older age, women are more likely to be affected by dementia.
- Women, who make up two-thirds of those with dementia, are also considered to be more at risk to for the diagnosis due to lifestyle factors, genetic factors, and the lack of research for women.
- The hormone estrogen is believed to protect women from poor brain health and the effects of memory loss, like Alzheimer’s. As a woman ages, however, their levels of estrogen decrease, so the protection that estrogen provides also decreases, making women more vulnerable to dementia.
- While the ApoE4 gene can be found among all genders, two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s have the ApoE4 gene. Research is still being done to learn more about this relationship.
Women can lower their chances of being diagnosed by implementing new habits into their everyday lives that encourage a healthier and more active lifestyle. First, squeezing a 30-minute walk into your daily routine, moving your body, and just being active can help stimulate the brain and improve mental health. Secondly, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining a low blood pressure not only prevent obesity, heart disease, and strokes, it can also be tied to decreasing the risk of dementia. Studies have shown that the “Mediterranean Diet” has also been linked to reducing the chance of dementia. Lastly, simply by being social and having conversations every day can slow the progression of dementia.
What’s coming down the pipeline for dementia research? Some recently approved medications have been found to remove a plaque from the brain that reduces cognitive and functional decline, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. While there is no cure, there are different medications, memory care senior living centers that prioritize the care of elders with dementia, and clinical trials that help researchers learn more about this condition.