Alzheimers Study Shows Risk Higher For WomenPosted on April 10, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Dementia Care, Education, Independent Living, Memory Loss
By: Marigold Day
According to a new 2014 Facts and Figures report women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease after age 60 compared to 1 in 11 chance in men of the same age. Perhaps more surprising the report also confirms earlier estimates that women are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than breast cancer. So far, the only known risk factor researchers can offer with certainty is age. There is ongoing research into genetic and hormonal factors.
The data for this report comes from a survey of 3,000 women that was commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association. This same study also reported women are also more likely to be the one’s taking on the responsibility of caring for someone with the Alzheimer’s. Women are more likely to be the person to care for a spouse, parent, or sibling with this condition. Alzheimer’s patients typically need 24-hour seven days a week care for at least seven years, while others might need this type of round-the-clock care for up twenty years. Over 20% of women are more likely to leave the workplace to care for a loved one compared to only 3% of men.
Another study from Harvard scientists released this week suggests a link between a protein that protects neurons in the brain and Alzheimer’s disease. This condition that affects an estimated seven million in America alone has always haunted medical researchers with one question. Why do some people’s brains accumulate the plaques and tangles associated with the condition while others in the same population, and of the same age group do not?
The Harvard research published on March 19th in Nature focused on a protein that’s found in the brains of developing fetus. This protein was thought to only act during the earliest period of the body’s development, but still remained in the brain even into the later stages of life. The study, however found this protein known as REST is lacking in the regions of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. What the study seems to indicate is the REST protein protects the brain from abnormal Alzheimer’s proteins. Researchers believe REST proteins might protect the brain’s neurons from age related stresses, as this is missing or depleted in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients it could explain why some people are more susceptible to the condition than others.
What Harvard researchers hoped to gain from this information is to spur on new development for drugs treating the condition, but those closest to the study caution this research is still ongoing. Still unknown is which came first. Whether the depletion of the REST protein is in some part the cause of Alzheimer’s or if some other trigger from the condition caused the lost of the REST protein in key regions of the brain.
Also this week, researchers at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston announced in Cell Reports they believe they have developed a method of testing for the condition, but this too is in the early research phase, and more study is needed before trying this test, which looks for a protein found in the spinal fluid.