WOMEN'S HEALTH: Researchers are studying why Alzheimer's is higher in women than in men.
WOMEN'S HEALTH: Researchers are studying why Alzheimer's is higher in women than in men. KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Research suggests why dementia higher in women than men

NEW research has suggested the reasons the rate of Alzheimer's disease is higher in women than in men.

The study was presented at the recent Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

Scientists from the Centre for Cognitive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre have identified how the Alzheimer's-related protein tau spreads in the brain.

The ways in which proteins spread may help explain why the prevalence of Alzheimer's is higher in women than in men.

The research suggests that tau spreads through the brain like an infection, moving from neuron to neuron and turning other proteins into abnormal tangles that result in the death of brain cells.

The researchers found that the structure of tau networks is different in men and women, with women having a larger number of "bridging regions” that connect various areas of the brain.

This may enable tau to spread more easily between brain regions, increasing the speed at which it accumulates and putting women at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease, the investigators theorised.

Further research is needed to confirm that women have an accelerated spread of tau.

About two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women.

In Australia, dementia is the leading cause of death in women with 64.5 per cent dementia related.

If USA researcher findings are proven, then they suggest sex-specific approaches may be needed to prevent Alzheimer's.

"This could include earlier treatment, lifestyle interventions and/or remedial help for memory,” the researchers report.

"Understanding how different biological processes influence our memory is a really important topic,” Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences and lead investigator for the study Dr Sepi Shokouhi said.

"Sex-specific differences in the brain's pathological, neuroanatomical and functional organisation may map into differences at a neurobehavioral and cognitive level, thus explaining differences in the prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders and helping us develop appropriate treatments.”

The Australian Dementia Helpline is at

dementia.org.au/helpline or phone 1800100500

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