It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer COMBINED! Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops this disease. In 2017, the disease will cost the nation approximately $259 billion. By 2050, these costs would rise as high as $1.1 Trillion. What is this disease? Dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), being the #1 type of dementia.
I have been talking about heart disease, erectile dysfunction and other disorders that affect men. Since June is men’s health month, I thought I’d share some good news for those men out there. Some of this news is not good for women, but research is being done to detect AD earlier in attempts to find a cure.
Men have a 1/11 risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) after the age of 60 vs. a 1/6 chance for women. Women are two times more likely to get Alzheimer’s than men – 16.6% vs. 9.1% after the age of 60.
Of the estimated 5 million people with Alzheimer’s in the US, 3.2 million are women (approximately 2/3 of all cases!)
Not only do women suffer more from the disease, they also carry the burden of caregiving (2.5 times more likely to be providing 24 hour care for someone living with Alzheimer’s). Sixty percent of all Alzheimer’s caregivers are women.
The statistics puzzled me during my research. Do women actually have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease than men? We know that women live longer than men – on average about 5 years longer – but this still doesn’t explain the huge discrepancy in risk. I went researching for the answer to this puzzling question and the answer appears to comprise many factors.
Longevity and Alzheimer’s
Longevity is part of it, but not the whole explanation. According to researcher, Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, a professor at University of Southern California, Alzheimer’s is a disease that starts 20 years before the diagnosis. That means although women live longer, the disease starts well before the age of 80.
The Link Between Genetics and Alzheimer’s
Researchers at Stanford University studied over 8,000 men and women looking for a genetic factor. One gene in particular, the ApoE-4 gene, has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and women who carried this gene were twice as likely to develop AD vs those women who did not carry the gene. Interestingly, men who carried the gene were only at a slight increase for AD vs. those men who did not carry the gene. Therefore, women who carry the ApoE-4 gene are much more likely to develop AD than men with same gene mutation.
Do Hormones Play a Role in Alzheimer’s
Over the past few weeks, I have given you information regarding the hormonal decline that occurs in both genders with aging. Although, both men and women undergo this decline in hormones (testosterone for men, estrogen for women), there is a marked disparity. starting at age 30, men see a decline in testosterone levels of approximately 10% per decade. Women, on the other hand, go through a much more sudden drop (90% -95%) in estrogen levels at the time of menopause.
How Does Testosterone Affect The Brain?
Testosterone may have a protective effect against developing dementia. In a 2013 French study, low testosterone levels in men were associated with an increased dementia risk, especially in men over 80. A study out of Monash University in Australia found that postmenopausal women given a low dose of testosterone gel for 26 weeks showed significant improvement in verbal learning and memory compared to those not receiving testosterone. Interestingly, the women receiving testosterone had levels within the normal female range.
Here are some theories I uncovered that could link testosterone to Dementia
Testosterone increases blood flow. Low testosterone might lead to decreased blood flow to the brain, thus dementia may occur.
Low testosterone has been linked to heart disease and stroke which are risk factors for dementia.
Testosterone may have a protective effect on the brain, especially areas prone to dementia.
Not Just a Disease that Affects Seniors – “Early Onset Alzheimers”
Based on new data & findings from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and several other studies, “the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are between 220,000 and 640,000 Americans with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The problem is that very little research effort has been put into early onset dementia. But the problem is real, and it is affecting young people around the world.
Obviously, much more research needs to be done within the field of dementia as well as the possible hormonal links to the disease. Testosterone therapy may be recommended for your man, or hormone replacement therapy recommended for you. However, it is always best to do your own research and then consult with your physician to weigh the risks and benefits. One size doesn’t fit all, and that’s why they call it the “art” of medicine.