Women face increased Alzheimer's risk

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email
The new details about this disease and its impact on women come from a survey of more than 3,000 women commissioned by the Alzheimer

The disease affects more than 5 million Americans, two-thirds of them women.

(CNN) - Women age 60 and older have a 1 in 6 chance of getting Alzheimer's disease in their lifetime, and are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's compared with breast cancer.

Men, by comparison, have a 1 in 11 chance of getting Alzheimer's, according to the 2014 Facts and Figures report.

Age is the greatest risk factor for gender differences among Alzheimer's patients, but it's not the only reason. Researchers are also looking at genetic and hormonal differences, according to Maria Carrillo, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association.

The disease affects more than 5 million Americans, two-thirds of them women. The new details about this disease and its impact on women come from a survey of more than 3,000 women commissioned by the Alzheimer's Association.

Women are also disproportionately affected when it comes to caring for people with Alzheimer's. Sixty percent of caregivers are women and the care they give is more intense physically and emotionally, according to the annual report.

Women are more likely to provide round-the-clock care, including feeding, clothing and diapering, says Carrillo. The average length of time an Alzheimer's patient requires 24-hour care is four to seven years, but could be as long as 20 years. The cost of Alzheimer's care is estimated to be $214 billion for this year alone.

The impact on women disproportionately extends to the workplace as well, where 20% of women, as compared with 3% of men, switch from full-time to part-time work because of their responsibilities as caregivers.

Additionally, women are more likely to take a leave of absence from work or stop working altogether. They also report feeling more isolated and depressed than their male counterparts.

Another surprise from the report, although not specific to women: 24% of women and men mistakenly believe they are only at risk for Alzheimer's disease if they have a family member with it. The cultural breakdown is surprising as well, as 33% of Hispanics held this mistaken belief and nearly half of Asians did.

However, adopting what the association calls "healthy brain life habits" may help delay or prevent the appearance of the disease. Those habits include staying mentally, socially and physically active and adopting a "brain-healthy diet" low in fat and cholesterol.

Women can also reduce some risk factors by watching their numbers, Carrillo says. That includes blood sugar levels if diabetic, blood pressure and cholesterol.

The association is launching a new initiative in conjunction with the report, asking 1 million women to go to the association's website and share why their brain matters and how they will use it to stop Alzheimer's disease.


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