Alzheimer’s is a neurological disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. People often associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory loss, as this is the significant signifier of the disease. But did you know that women tend to get diagnosed later with Alzheimer’s, due to their ability to perform better on cognitive tests early on?
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In a study that is discussed on Women’s Brain Health Initiative, researchers compared 235 patients with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis to 694 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 379 patients in good health to view the differences between men and women and their diagnoses.
It has been found that women have an advantage in verbal memory. They tend to maintain normal cognitive function longer then men do as Alzheimer’s progresses. However, this may be bad news, as women tend to be diagnosed later, missing out on early treatment plans that could slow the progression of the disease. The cognitive tests that are tested appear to be less sensitive to early decline in women and may miss the early stages of the disease.
The study analyzed the hippocampus – the part of the brain most responsible for memory. In Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus shrinks as the disease progresses. The findings of this study found that women outperformed men on overall memory during cognitive tests, but they also continued to outperform men even when their hippocampus was shrunken. By the time women did show signs of severe memory impairment, the size of their hippocampus was found to be quite a bit smaller than the men’s.
The study’s authors feel that this may lead to a worse prognosis for women than men. This is not fair because once cognitive decline in women is apparent, it will occur quicker because the disease is more advanced. Women will miss out on early treatments, and experimental and therapeutic treatments that could slow down the progression of the disease. Health professionals and researchers need to create better testing procedures that are equally sensitive to both genders so that we all have a fighting chance at slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Keep in mind the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s, according to Alz.org:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks, at home, at work, or at leisure.
4. Confusion with time or place.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgment.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood and personality.