How Dementia Affects Men and Women Differently
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, researchers have long noted the clear differences in Alzheimer’s disease in women and men, with women making up two-thirds of people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. In fact, Alzheimer’s Disease is the fifth leading cause of death for women and the eighth leading cause of death for men. But why the difference?
- Gender Age Gap. The likelihood of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease increases as we age. On average, women live longer than men do, which might explain some reasoning behind why we see more signs of dementia in women.
- As a fetus in the womb, estrogen plays an important role in the development of our hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for making new memories. Adult women are continuously exposed to estrogen throughout their lives, during menstrual cycles and pregnancies. Research finds the hippocampus is larger in women than in men, meaning they naturally have a better lifelong memory.
- Tests Do Tell. The verbal memory tests that are submitted to diagnose early Alzheimer’s are based on the performances of thousands of people, adjusted only for age and education, not adjusted for a person’s sex. Research shows that women have better verbal-memory than men. According to research, 9% of women who were told they were “normal,” actually had mild cognitive impairment; while 10% of men who were told they had mild cognitive impairment were actually “normal.” That means women are more likely to miss out on early-intervention and medications that can slow the progress of the disease.
Signs of Dementia in Women vs. Signs of Dementia in Men
- Progression of Symptoms Research has found that women are more likely than men to be diagnosed in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and therefore the disease appears to progress at a faster rate in women than men after diagnosis.
- Depression Men with symptoms of depression were found to have a significantly higher risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, compared to women with symptoms of depression.
- Aggression One of the signs of dementia in men, is that men are more likely to be aggressive and act out. They may become agitated and yell or curse at their caregivers.
- Wandering Men are more likely to exhibit wandering tendencies.
- Inappropriate Sexual Behavior Some men may act in sexually inappropriate ways.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Know the Signs
Dementia describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning, or other thinking skills. Many different types of dementia exist, and many conditions cause it. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases.
- Memory Problems Forgetting recently learned information or important dates or events. Having to ask for the same information over and over and needing to rely on reminder notes or family members for things that used to be handled with ease.
- Completing Familiar Tasks Routine daily tasks become more and more of a challenge, such as driving to familiar locations, managing a budget, or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
- Trouble Making Plans Changes in ability to develop and follow a plan like following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. Tasks may take much longer to do than they did formerly, or it may be difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.
- Confusion Concerning Time or Place Those with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, or the passage of time. Sometimes they may be confused about where they are or how they got there.
- Visual Images and Spatial Relationships Difficulty reading, judging distances, and determining color or contrast can affect those with Alzheimer’s and can cause real problems with driving.
- Problems with Words when Speaking or Writing Those with Alzheimer’s may stop in the middle of a conversation with no idea how to continue. They may repeat themselves or struggle with finding the right word.
- Losing the Ability to Retrace Steps They may no longer have the ability to go back and retrace their steps to find lost articles. They may accuse others of stealing.
- Poor Judgement When dealing with money, they may no longer be able to make good decisions. They may pay less attention to grooming or personal hygiene.
- Withdrawal from Social Activities They may remove themselves from social interactions or hobbies. They may have difficulty keeping up with favorite sports teams.
- Changes in Mood and Personality They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They can be easily upset or become upset when their routine is disrupted.
SALMON Health and Retirement offers the Tapestry Program, a specialized memory care program that supports and meets the needs of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and their families at every stage. To learn more about our Tapestry Program available at our Whitney Place Assisted Living communities, click here.