Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and is the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.
While there are many theories as to the cause of Alzheimer’s, there is only one thing researches can agree on at this point in time: Alzheimer’s is a woman’s disease, with more than two-thirds of all diagnosed being women.
Why the gender discrepancy?
The simplest reason points to the fact that women live longer than men, and therefore are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in their lifetimes. It’s simply a mortality difference.
Beyond that, research has also shown that hormonal differences might also play a role. There has been a lot of research in determining the impact of estrogen on dementia, and how varying the levels can impact symptoms. One study found that hormone replacement therapy can increase dementia risk, while another study found high or low levels of a thyroid hormone are associated with an increased risk factor of Alzheimer’s in women.
Still another study found that women with depression were twice as likely to suffer from dementia, and women that are unable to live without assistance are up to three times more likely to develop dementia in their lifetimes.
The other side of Alzheimer’s can also add into the problem.
Approximately two-thirds of all caregivers for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s are women, with one in three of them being 65 or older.
Nearly 60 percent of dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, with about 40 percent of those suffering from some level of depression.
Still, only about 45 percent of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s will be diagnosed. There are a number of warning signs that you can watch for either in the person you are caring for, or even in yourself:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life – this goes beyond forgetting where your keys are. This involves forgetting recently learned information, such as dates or events, or asking for the same information over and over again.
Having problems with task oriented problems – some people begin to notice that they have trouble performing once routine tasks such as following a recipe or tracking monthly bills.
Difficulty with routine tasks – people with Alzheimer’s begin to notice it hard to complete things that once were common, such as driving to a familiar location, or remembering the rules to a favorite game.
Confusion with time and place – people with Alzheimer’s can lose track of what day it is, what season they are in, or even the passage of time. They may also become agitated when discovering they are in a location they don’t remember going to.
Problems with speaking or writing – sometimes the words just won’t come. People may have trouble following a conversation, or may struggle to find the correct word. They may also call once familiar objects by the wrong name.
Using poor judgment – a loved one may have prided themselves on budgeting throughout their adult life, only to begin throwing money at frivolous things. Where they once prided themselves on a high fashion sense, they may now have trouble keeping their clothes clean.
Withdrawal from social activities – a person with Alzheimer’s often begins to withdrawal from things they once enjoyed. They may remove themselves from social clubs, stop hobbies altogether, or even have trouble keeping up with once enjoyed activities. They may avoid them and become brash when approached about continuing an activity.
When you notice a change and suspect it may be more than the normal aging process, getting proper diagnosis is the first step. While there is no cure, there are treatments that can provide relief and help you maintain a level of independence longer.