Women and men are inherently different, even in the way that diseases develop in the human body.
A new study from Duke University suggests that dementia progresses faster in women than in men. For older adults, the decline of mental facilities will occur more quickly in women than in male counterparts who experience equally mild symptoms.
The Study and its Conclusions
The study was conducted by Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy and his student, Katherine Amy Lin, at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. Duke researchers examined scores from basic cognitive tests taken by 398 men and women.
The majority of subjects in the study were in their 70s. The men and women had been followed from a period of 4 to 8 years. They took multiple mental acuity tests and also underwent a variety other imaging tests, such as PET scans.
The researchers took age, education and genetic predisposition into account when analyzing memory and mental acuity. They found that on average, women’s scores fell by about two points each year compared with one point for men.
Researchers also analyzed quality of life, focusing on the patient’s ability to socialize with family and friends in home and work atmospheres. They found that women’s scores dropped faster than men at the same rate mentioned above.
The results show that women’s brain functioning declines more quickly in comparison to men, but the exact timeframe of the decline is not yet confirmed. Previous studies found that the difference in progression was about one year, but new results suggest that the difference could be a disparity of up to eight years.
Women live longer, which means that a larger portion of people with Alzheimer’s disease are female. Two-thirds of Americans with the disease are women. Researchers will continue to explore the underlying cause of this difference in disease progression. One hypothesis is that the hormone estrogen may have an effect on the development of dementia.
Although it’s clear that women’s mental functions deteriorate more quickly, Duke researchers need to continue studying the subjects to determine if women developed full-blown dementia faster than men.
The results of the study will now add an additional aspect for researchers to focus on. Gender differences must be analyzed when studying the development of dementia. Intersex individuals should also be studied as well as cisgender males and females.
“With any trial now, let’s say if you’re giving people a drug to see if it slows the rate of cognitive decline, you’re going to have to take account of this difference between men and women,” according to geriatric psychiatrist at Columbia University Dr. Edward D. Huey, who was interviewed by the New York Times.
The battle of the sexes rages on. But in this case, neither will be crowned the winner.
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