Alzheimer’s disease disproportionately affects more women than men. And while the exact reasons for this have always been unclear, it has been suggested that this is because women tend to live longer.
In the UK alone, there are approximately 500,000 women with Alzheimer’s, compared to 350,000 men.
But now new research presented at an international conference suggests that differences in brain connectivity and sex-specific genes could explain why women are at greater risk of Alzheimer’s than men.
Presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Los Angeles, the two separate pieces of research – one from Vanderbilt University Medical Centre and the other from the University of Miami – could lead
The Vanderbilt University Medical Centre study looked at proteins called tau and amyloid in the brain, which can cause brain cells to die. It found that women’s brains had better connectivity between the regions where tau protein builds up and this can lead to faster cognitive decline.
The University of Miami study found that genetics could play a part, with genes found only in women presenting a specific dementia risk.
Speaking about the University of Miami research, Dr Jana Voigt, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “We don't yet know why certain genes are linked with Alzheimer's risk in one sex and not the other - but unravelling this could provide some answers as to why more women are living with dementia than men.”