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Women's pregnancy, reproductive history may directly impact dementia risk

July 25, 2018
by I Advance Senior Care
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Research reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) 2018 in Chicago highlighted sex differences associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease across the life course, including the first ever large-scale study of reproductive history and dementia risk in women.

New results reported at AAIC 2018 suggest:

  • Associations between dementia risk and number of children, number of miscarriages, age at first menstrual period, and reproductive period (years between first menstrual period and menopause).
  • In a separate study, a correlation between cumulative months of pregnancy and Alzheimer's risk.
  • Re-thinking the long held thought that hormone therapy negatively affects cognition.
  • A need for sex-based standards for cognitive assessments, to improve early detection in women.

"More women than men have Alzheimer's disease or other dementias; almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women," said Maria Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer's Association Chief Science Officer. According to Alzheimer's Association 2018 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, of the 5.5 million people age 65 or older with Alzheimer's in the United States, 3.4 million are women and 2.0 million are men.

There are a number of potential biological and social reasons why more women than men have Alzheimer's or other dementias. The prevailing view has been that women live longer than men on average, and older age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's. However, some research suggests that the risk for developing Alzheimer's could be greater for women due to biological or genetic variations, or even different life experiences, such as education, occupation or rates of heart disease.

"More research is needed in this area, because having a better understanding of sex-specific risk factors across the lifespan may help us discover — and eventually apply — specific prevention strategies for different populations of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias," Carrillo added.

For the full story, read the release from the AAIC 2018.