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Does Alzheimer's Affect Men & Women Equally?

Sunday April 20, 2014

Do you know the statistics regarding who (men or women) develops Alzheimer's disease? A common sense guess might be that half of people who get dementia are women and half are men, but common sense is wrong here. Or, perhaps you're aware that the average lifespan for a women is longer than for a man, and you guess that the breakdown is 55% women to 45% men. Closer, but not there yet.

The truth? Two-thirds of people who develop Alzheimer's or a related dementia are women- a two-to-one ratio. That's a significant difference, and one that recently has been highlighted by advocacy groups.

Why? We don't have the full answer yet, but a recent study conducted by researchers at Staford University School of Medicine added some insight to this dilemma. This past week, they published research in the Annals of Neurology that demonstrated that women with the  ApoE4 gene (a gene that increases your risk of developing Alzheimer's) were significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer's than men with the ApoE4 gene. Men with the ApoE4 gene still showed an increased risk of Alzheimer's when compared to those without this gene, but women with the gene had a much higher risk than men.

Why Does This Matter?

In addition to understanding that women are more at risk for dementia than men, this latest discovery that the ApoE4 gene significantly increases the dementia risk for women identifies new areas for research on what triggers Alzheimer's to develop and, eventually, how we can treat and prevent it.


Related Reading

Is Alzheimer's Disease Inherited?

The Statistics of Alzheimer's: Who Gets It?

Women and Alzheimer's Disease: A Higher Risk & More Likely to Serve as a Caregiver

Young Children + People with Alzheimer's Disease = Victory

Sunday April 13, 2014

Have you ever seen the reaction of someone with dementia when a young child comes near? This is one of my favorite interactions to observe. Why? Because the vast majority of time, the dementia takes a back seat to the presence of the child. For me, the type of interactions I witness between someone with Alzheimer's disease and with children is one of those victorious moments in the battle against dementia.

Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia and other types of dementia rob abilities, memories, words and so much more. But for many people, their reactions to kids remain or even intensify. Although not every person with dementia loves babies and young children, most derive great joy from watching babies smile, listening to the giggles of a two-year old, playing a game with a preschooler or hearing a 5 year-old sing a song.  That joy is why I love to watch these interactions, and why I count them as victories over dementia.

Related Reading

Therapeutic Benefits of Young Children for People with Dementia- Here's an article I wrote recently that looks at the research behind these benefits, the challenges associated with arranging intergenerational interactions and some suggestions on how to facilitate them.

Alzheimer's Disease + Makeup Tattoo = Victory- This is one of my earliest blogs, and I love the idea it highlights. If you haven't read it, it's worth your time, in my humble opinion. It's another one of those victorious moments I describe above.

Doll Therapy for People with Dementia- Here's another recent article on how dolls can be helpful for some people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

Vitamin D: Good for More than Just Your Bone Health

Sunday April 6, 2014

When it comes to vitamin D, most of us are familiar with the thought that it's helpful in keeping our bones strong. But did you know that it has many other benefits as well?

Adequate levels of vitamin D have been associated with a lower risk of diabetes, certain types of cancer and muscle and bone pain. Of particular interest, vitamin D has also been connected with brain health. Low levels of vitamin D have been correlated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and with symptoms of mild cognitive impairment.

Research has also shown some possible benefit from using vitamin D to treat dementia as well, but more studies are needed to more clearly determine if adequate vitamin D slows down the symptoms of dementia or even improves cognitive functioning for a time.

Meanwhile, those of us who live in locations where we're not getting much of our vitamin D from the sun might want to make sure our diet contains enough of it from other sources.

Related Reading

How Vitamin D Helps Your Brain - The research behind the claims regarding vitamin D and your brain.

Vitamin D Shown to Be Important in Reducing Brain Plaques in Alzheimer's Disease - An earlier study I highlighted regarding the effects of vitamin D on the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

Reducing the Risk of Dementia - A link to several articles on how to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia.

Friendships- Good for Your Heart and Your Brain?

Sunday March 30, 2014

I recently wrote an article about the benefits of social interaction, specifically outlining what research says about how friendships and the act of socializing and interacting with others impacts our risk of developing dementia. Here's the article: Does Social Interaction Prevent Dementia?

As I reviewed data for that article, I found some interesting research that was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. The short version of the research is that after 15 years of studying more than 2000 participants' cognitive status and administering socialization questionnaires, researchers determined that social interactions reduced the risk of dementia. But, more significantly, they found that the quality of these social relationships- not the quantity of them- was the key factor in the reduction of the risk for dementia. Thus, not only should you spend time with others, but it can make a difference- even years from now- with whom you spend time with and how that time is being spent.

So, consider this a gentle nudge to prioritize in the busyness of life and be intentional about developing strong friendships with others. Those kinds of relationships require time and energy, but the benefits are significant, both for the present- in terms of quality of life- and for the future- in a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.

Related Reading

How to Meet New Friends - Friendless? About.com's friendship expert provides some suggestions of where to start if you find yourself wanting to make friends with others.

Fact or Myth? Do Crossword Puzzles Prevent Dementia? - Love crossword puzzles? Find out if they benefit your brain or are just a fun way to pass the time.

How to React when a Friend or Family Member Tells You She Has Dementia - Here are a few suggestions on how to be a supportive friend or family member when dementia strikes.

10 Things Not to Say To Caregivers - Have a friend who's a caregiver? These tips may help you avoid some of the common mistakes as you're trying to encourage your friend.

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