Dementia is perhaps one of the country's most dreaded diseases - and sadly, one that's all too common, with one in every 6 people over 80 being diagnosed with it.
But according to new research, women could be more likely to miss the early signs and symptoms of the disease, due to a slight memory advantage they have over men.
Research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggested that women’s superior ability for retaining and recalling words could mean that the early stages of dementia are initially missed.
This is because verbal memory tests, which require patients to remember lists and stories, are often used to diagnose dementia at an early stage.
Typically, women would be better at remembering these things than men – meaning any early signs of dementia may be masked.
Of course, an early dementia diagnosis is key to helping patients cope with the disease, and vital in providing the care they’ll need as the dementia progresses.
Explaining the damning research, Dr Tim Shakespeare, Research Information Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said, “Women tend to have a better memory for things like lists and short stories – known as verbal memory – throughout their lives.
“This study suggests that this stronger recall in women may mask early symptoms of dementia. Taking this into consideration could help identify dementia early on, so women don’t slip through the dementia diagnosis net.”
But it turns out that even despite these new findings, women are statistically more likely to receive a dementia diagnosis than men.
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that 65% of people who currently have the disease in the UK are women – out of 850,000 people who have dementia.
So why are women more likely to get dementia? Although researchers can’t fully explain the correlation, there are some thoughts as to the reason why.
Oestrogen and dementia have long been linked, and scientists think that women’s lack of oestrogen throughout the menopause could be reason behind the rise in diagnoses.
During the menopause, women stop producing so much oestrogen, meaning men actually have more oestrogen in their bodies at the point of middle age – despite their principal hormone being testosterone.
It’s thought that oestrogen acts as somewhat of a buffer to dementia – and this protective effect is lost when levels of the hormone decrease as we women age.
Researchers have also been left unclear about the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on your likelihood of getting dementia.
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So far, the Alzheimer’s Society have stated that women taking HRT should not worry unduly about whether or not it increase your chances of getting the disease – despite conflicting and contradictory studies.
Of course, there is no cure for dementia at this time. However, experts in the field have long stated that a healthy, active lifestyle can help to prevent it.
By exercising regularly, enjoying a healthy diet and not smoking, you’ll be doing the best you can to stop yourself from getting the disease.