DEMENTIA is a term used to describe different diseases that progressively affect the brain. There’s currently no cure for the condition but research is helping understanding how its caused and ways to prevent it. A new study has suggested whether men women are more likely to develop symptoms.
Dementia tends to develop in old age and one of the most notable symptoms is memory loss. The four most common types of dementia are vascular dementia, lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia has been found to have different causes – vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. And as part of a new study to understand more about the condition, researchers have found women are more prone to developing rogue proteins in the brain that trigger Alzheimers disease.
A study of 300 elderly people found men had less tau and beta amyloid that trigger Alzheimer’s
A study of 300 elderly people found men had less tau and beta amyloid that trigger the condition.
When these gather in tangles or clumps, respectively, they destroy neurons – leading to memory loss and confusion.
The chemicals are present in all grey matter and only cause a problem in large amounts.Now PET (positron emission tomography) scans have shown they are more prevalent in women – even among healthy older individuals.
Lead author Professor Dr Reisa Sperling, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said: “Growing evidence suggests women may be at increased risk of certain physiological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
It could shed fresh light on why around two-in-three dementia sufferers are female.
The study looked specifically for deposits in the brain of the protein tau, a sign of Alzheimer’s, among cognitively normal participants whose average age was 74.
Prof Sperling, who is Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School said: “Women showed more tau in a region of the brain than men, which was associated with individuals with greater amounts of plaque deposits of the beta-amyloid peptide, another marker of Alzheimer’s.”
Previously it was thought there was no difference in the levels of these proteins, or ‘biomarkers’, in men and women with Alzheimer’s disease.
The importance of investigating the differences between the male and female specifics of the disease is becoming increasingly important.
Over the last 20 years, new dementia cases in the UK have dropped by a fifth – driven mostly by a fall in incidence among men over 65.
Experts say this may be because of public health campaigns targeting heart disease and smoking.
Both can cause Alzheimer’s – the most common form of dementia.
More than 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia with numbers rising quickly.
Globally, experts estimate 75 million people will have it by 2030 – and 131.5 million by 2050.
There are currently 850,000 patients in the UK – a figure expected to reach one million by 2025.
In England, it’s now the leading cause of death for women. There is no cure.