Dementia: Doctor outlines changes to help prevent disease
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Strictly speaking, dementia is not a disease itself, it’s a collection of symptoms experienced due to damage to the brain, caused by different diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The symptoms felt will differ according to the part of the brain that’s affected. Due to the varying symptoms, it can sometimes be tricky to diagnose dementia.
More women are affected by dementia than men. The Alzheimer’s Society says worldwide the number of women with dementia outnumbers men two to one.
The charity says “dementia risk is a complex puzzle, understanding the differences of the sexes is one way that could help dementia researchers understand its causes and develop new treatments.”
Dr Aoife Kiely, Research Communications Officer at the Alzheimer’s Society asserts: “Brain scans tell us that the rate at which brain cells are dying in the brain is faster in women than in men.
“Women are more likely to live longer than men. However, although the risk increases with age, dementia is caused by diseases of the brain, not age alone.”
It is not known exactly why women are more likely to suffer from dementia. But there are early symptoms of dementia that are more likely to be felt by women than men.
What are the common symptoms of the onset of dementia?
Although different types of dementia will affect people in varying ways there are some common early symptoms that could indicate you have early dementia, including:
- Memory loss (the most common symptom)
- Struggling to concentrate
- Finding daily tasks are becoming a challenge, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
- Finding it difficult to follow a conversation or find to remember the right word
- Getting confused about times and places
- Mood changes
What symptoms are more likely to be felt by women?
Researchers think the fact that women have oestrogen might be why they have a better memory for words and verbal items than men.
This means it can be harder to diagnose dementia in women as they often keep the ability to remember words and verbal items, even if they have mild memory and thinking problems which could indicate early dementia.
The first stage in diagnosis is normally a verbal memory test. As women have a strong verbal memory, they often do well on memory tests, even if they have cognitive problems.
This often leaves many women undiagnosed compared to men.
There has been a lack of research into the difference between the sexes when it comes to dementia symptoms.
This could be because women were only included in clinical trials of drug treatments for dementia from 1993, the Alzheimers Society said.
Early research by the charity suggests that heart health could be a clearer sign that a woman could be developing dementia.
High blood pressure, for example, could indicate the onset of dementia for women.
Professor Patrick Kehoe told the Alzheimer’s Society: “Following menopause with the influence of oestrogen on this system a woman is at greater risk of high blood pressure and so perhaps also dementia, but we need to test this in more detail.”
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