An increasing risk of dementia development amongst women

Written by: Zainab Adamji

If you didn’t know, dementia disproportionately affects women compared to men. Based on recent studies, women might have a higher risk of developing dementia over men as their mental capacity declines at a faster rate. Are you interested in learning more about why women have a greater risk of developing dementia? Read more below! 
Previously, most scientists believed that women tend to develop dementia purely because women live much longer than men. However, there seems to be other reasons for this, some of which researchers are still trying to uncover. At the age of 65, women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s Diseases (the most common form of dementia). This is compared to a 1 in 11 chance for men! Such shocking statistics is what lead most people to question whether there are biological or environmental factors that we are ignoring.  It has been found that women decline at approximately twice the rate of men.

The most popular explanation for this is age, even if we are trying to move away from the stereotype that women living longer makes them susceptible to dementia. Although living a longer life is great and has its perks, women are living longer in ill health. Aside from this, gender differences are also being taken into account. For example, hormones such as Oestrogen could play a role in dementia even though it is known to have beneficial effects on the brain. Hormone therapy used to protect cognitive decline in aging has started to produce inconsistent results and could end up triggering the development of dementia rather than preventing it.

Studies have also shown that women may have a higher fraction of amyloids (proteins that are broken down in a healthy brain). These tend to form plaques and if not broken down, disrupt regular cognitive functions thus leading to the development of dementia. Reasons for this occurrence have not been fully understood or uncovered.

We are all aware of how important caregivers are and the role they play in the care-partner's life. Studies have shown that it is mostly women who care for dementia patients, and most feel less supported. Female caregivers generally approach their job differently compared to males, and therefore experience a lot more stress and use more services than men. In turn, female caregivers are at a higher risk of being depressed, which is also a risk factor for dementia. We salute all the female caregivers that are working so hard, and appreciate the men too! For tips on how to manage caregiver burnout click here. 

There are numerous factors that explain why women are much more vulnerable towards developing dementia even though we shed some light on very few.  We are still learning how the human brain functions and new discoveries are being made each day.  At the end of the day, it is important to always be happy and healthy, even though times may be difficult.

Do you have any insights to why dementia is prevalent amongst women? Tell us in the comments below!