New Clues as to Why Women are More Affected by Alzheimers Than Men

A new study shows some biological differences as to why women might be more exposed to developing Alzheimer’s disease than men, and how this varies by sex.

Women Have a Higher Risk

This Tuesday, the scientists at the Alzheimer’s Assn. International Conference in Los Angeles offered some proof that the disease may spread differently in women’s brains than in men’s. Newly discovered genes may also be a factor to the risk disparity.

“Two-thrids of Alzheimer’s cases in the U.S are in women, and it’s not just because we live longer. There’s also a biological underpinning for sex differences in the disease”, said Maria Carrillo, the chief science officer of the association.

From previous studies, we also know that no matter the age, women are more exposed to developing Alzheimer’s than men and that a gene variant called APOE-e4 is raising the risk more for women compared to men.

Women also do better on verbal tests than men, and that might cause the disease to go undetected.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have discovered that tau, a protein that destroys nerve cells, is more spread out and diffuse on the brain of women with mild impairment, implying that more areas of the brain were affected.

Four New Genes Tied to Alzheimer’s

Using scans on more than 1000 older adults, researchers found that women metabolized sugar better, the brain’s primary energy source, and how it might give them the ability to alienate the damage that dementia does to the brain.

“The female advantage might mask early signs of Alzheimer’s and delay diagnosis,” said study leader Erin Sundermann. “Women are able to sustain normal verbal performance longer,” partly because of better brain metabolism.

The scientists at the University of Miami, analyzed genes in 30000 people, half diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the other half that are not. They discovered that four genes are related to disease risk by sex.

“One confers risk in females and not males, and three confer risk in males but not females,” said one study leader, Eden Martin.

“Some of these look like they’re tied to the immune system, and we know there are differences between males and females,” said another study leader, Brian Kunkle.

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