It can be puzzling that Alzheimer’s disease affects more women. Despite the fact that 50.4% of the US population is female, women make up two-thirds of the Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease.
The prevailing explanation for this has been that women live longer than men. Since people who are older are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and there are more older women than men, it stands to reason that there are more women with it than men.
However, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that researchers are calling this explanation into question. In fact, researchers are now suggesting that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease could actually be higher for women than for men, at any given age. This could be due to biological or genetic factors or differences in life experiences.
There’s another way that Alzheimer’s disease affects women disproportionately. Women are more likely to be caregivers of someone living with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 11 million women in the United States are either living with Alzheimer’s disease or caring for someone who has it.
Why Alzheimer’s Disease Affects More Women
The risk of Alzheimer’s is greater for women
A woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at age 65 is 1 in 5. To put things into perspective, women in their 60s are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.
A number of possible reasons have been suggested by researchers, according to a 2018 article in Cognitive Vitality. Some say that it’s because women tend to exercise less than men. Regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Others suggest it’s because women are more likely to be caregivers than men. Some studies indicate that spousal caregivers may be at a higher risk of cognitive impairment or dementia than non-caregivers.
Still others suggest it’s because estrogen levels play a role. There’s also evidence that women with APOE4, a gene associated with greater Alzheimer’s disease risk, are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease than men with APOE4.
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Women are more likely to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease
The Alzheimer Association reports that women make up more than 60% of caregivers of others living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. More specifically, over one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters.
On average, female caregivers spend more time caregiving than male caregivers. In fact, there are 2.5 times more women than men who live with a person with dementia full-time.
Nearly 19% of women Alzheimer’s disease caregivers had to quit work either to become a caregiver or because their caregiving duties became too burdensome.
Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of dementia caregivers who indicate a need for individual counseling and respite care are women.
How women can reduce their risk
Although there’s no definitive way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, women can reduce the risk of developing it by exercising regularly, maintaining social connections, following a healthy diet, and keeping mentally active.
About memory care communities for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Memory care communities are specialized senior living communities that provide compassionate dementia care that benefits both its residents and their families. Within a supportive memory care community, individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can experience enhanced well-being and a higher quality of life. Families gain the peace of mind of knowing their loved ones are in capable hands. If a loved one is facing challenges, a memory care community can be a valuable and supportive resource on this journey.
To learn more about memory care, check out our free ebook, Just the Facts: Your Guide to Memory Care. See Sinceri Senior Living’s Meaningful Moments® memory care program for yourself – schedule a tour at a community near you.