Friday, December 19, 2008

Alzheimer's Disease: Women Affected More Often Than Men

The Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR) issued the following newsrelease:Alzheimer's Disease: Women Affected More Often than Men

Nearly 4.5 million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease (AD) in ourcountry, and more than half of them are women, according to the NationalInstitute on Aging in Bethesda, Md. As the general population continuesto age, this number is expected to increase significantly over the nextfew decades.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, a group ofbrain disorders that interferes with a person's ability to carry outdaily activities. In AD, areas of the brain change and deteriorate,which causes a decline in cognition and memory functioning. In somepatients, the deficits are large enough to get in the way of performingnormal, everyday tasks.

There is evidence that AD affects women differently than men. "Manystudies of gender differences in cognition have pointed to greaterlanguage deficits in women with Alzheimer's disease as compared to men,"explains Michael S. Rafii, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Memory DisordersClinic and an attending neurologist at the Shiley-Marcos AlzheimerDisease Research Center at the University of California, San Diego."Naming and word-recognition skills have been reported to be moreadversely affected in female patients with AD than in male patients, andthe differences have been shown to be sustained over time."Notable sex and gender differences in behavior among Alzheimer patientshave been observed as well. "

Male patients exhibit greater problems thanfemale patients in wandering, abusiveness and social impropriety,particularly in the more advanced stages of the disorder," Rafii pointsout. In fact, major tranquilizers and behavior management programs areused more frequently on male patients.While there is currently no cure for AD, researchers continue to makeprogress. More drugs are being studied, and researchers have identifiedseveral genes associated with the disease. "Recent work has been focusedon identifying the molecule that may be causing AD symptoms," saysRafii. Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Johns HopkinsUniversity "discovered a protein complex in the brain that appears toimpair memory."Combined with sophisticated imaging techniques, this discovery isenabling scientists to take a clear picture of the protein deposits inthe brain. According to Rafii, "This could lead to accurate diagnosis ofAD at very early stages.Previously, a definitive diagnosis of the disease could only be madethrough an autopsy after the patient's death, typically at a very latestage of the illness."

Diagnosing AD can be tricky, especially because many people are underthe assumption that forgetfulness is a normal part of the aging process.But patients with AD suffer from much more than simple memory lapses.

Here are a few common signs and symptoms of the disease:- Persistent forgetfulness or memory loss-
Problems performing routine tasks-
Inability to express thoughts coherently or finish sentences- Loss of judgment-
Changes in personality

As in other diseases, early diagnosis is very important for patientswith AD. Certain medications have been found to be useful in the earlierstages of the disease, so the sooner the diagnosis is made, the better.

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