Alzheimer’s disproportionately impacts women



On May 14, millions of Americans will honor their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers for their contributions to families and society.

Unfortunately, thousands in Ohio have already lost a mother or grandmother to Alzheimer’s, or are currently caring for someone living with the disease.

The hard truth is that Alzheimer’s disproportionately impacts women. Two-thirds of all Alzheimer’s cases are in women, and an overwhelming majority don’t know they are at an increased risk for the disease.

There is some good news regarding the inequality of Alzheimer’s occurrence in women. Scientists have identified a gene that appears to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s in women, providing a potential new clue as to why more women than men are diagnosed with the disease. Also, a new study shows that women can reduce their increased risk. Personalized lifestyle interventions — such as diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep hygiene — were found to reduce Alzheimer’s risk factors in both sexes, but they worked even better in women.

In addition to learning more about why the genetics of being a woman increases the risk of cognitive impairment, women can join clinical trials investigating the issues of women and Alzheimer’s risk. Women interested in finding out more about clinical trials can go to a free matching tool for research studies and treatment trials for Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Anyone can participate. There are trials for those with and without the disease.

While lifestyles are proving to help reduce risks, not everything that makes up a woman’s lifestyle is by choice. Historically, women have fulfilled the role of caregiver for the family, and more than 60 percent of all caregivers are female. They are our mothers, wives, aunts, sisters, and daughters. When caregiving is provided to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the toll on the caregiver can be high. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2023 Facts and Figures:

• More than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women, and over one-third of them are daughters.

•The overwhelming majority of dementia caregivers who indicate a need for individual counseling (85 percent) and respite care (84 percent) are women.

•Two and a half times as many women as men reported living with a person with dementia full time. Of those providing care to someone with dementia for more than five years, 63 percent were women.

•Nearly 19 percent of female Alzheimer’s caregivers had to quit working either to become full-time caregivers or because their caregiving duties became too burdensome.

There are 493,000 family and friends who provide unpaid care for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s. These challenging and stressful caregiving responsibilities often fall on female shoulders. Talk to your female relatives about women and Alzheimer’s risks and learn the 10 warning signs. You can also call the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 for more information and assistance.

According to the History Channel, more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year. These holiday chats with Mom often cause phone traffic to spike by as much as 37 percent. Ignore the increased phone traffic and call your mother this Mother’s Day – or any day for that matter.

Annemarie Barnett, Executive Director

Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley and Greater Cincinnati Chapters

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