DIMENSIONS Winter 1998

ALZHEIMER'S: A WOMEN'S HEALTH ISSUE

Note: Each issue of Dimensions features a contribution from one of the Alzheimer s groups in Washington. This article is adapted from Alzheimer's Disease Research, Possible Causes, Potential Treatment, and is reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer's Association, Western and Central Washington State Chapter

Did you know that women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD)? Although no special risk factors correlating gender to AD have been firmly identified, more women than men develop this age-related illness. Alzheimer's affects two to three times more women than men, and it has been hypothesized (not proven) that AD may be related to the estrogen-deficient state.(It may also be because women live longer.) It is important to become educated and watch the results of current research studies regarding women, estrogen factors, and post-menopausal therapy choices. Although new information may make some readers more anxious and concerned, it is better to become informed and learn about any new health or medical choices you can make as researchers reveal their latest findings. Fifty to seventy percent of women over the age of 80 are affected by AD.

Possible higher risk factors for AD in women:

Studies have indicated that estrogen affects the central nervous system in positive ways, possibly lowering the risk of AD. Estrogen stimulates proteins and other chemicals that influence the ability of neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain to send clear messages and perform at their highest levels. It stimulates the growth of axons and synapses in cells and helps protect cells from damage. Estrogen also helps prevent loss of learning and memory abilities in women. If you are concerned about choices involving estrogen replacement therapies or have any personal health questions, consult your physician. For additional information on signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, call the Alzheimer's Association helpline for free materials at 800-848-7097 or 206-783-6600.


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