Alzheimer’s disease may harm women and men in different ways

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In a new study, researchers found that the ravages of Alzheimer’s may strike later in women than men, but once it takes hold women tend to deteriorate far faster than men.

The research was conducted by a team at Michigan Medicine.

Something known as cognitive reserve helps the aging brain function better for longer, and researchers report that women appear to have more of it than men.

These sex differences in cognitive decline might be due to differences in sex hormones, structural brain development, genetics, psychosocial factors, lifestyle factors, functional connectivity, and brain pathology.

But once the reserve runs out, mental decline in women speeds up.

This pattern of rapid decline might mean that women are at risk for a late or delayed diagnosis of cognitive decline.

In the study,  the team used data from more than 34,000 men and women who participated in research from 1971 to 2017 and followed for about eight years.

They found that women performed significantly better on tests of cognition, executive function, and memory.

Cognition is the ability to learn and understand. The executive function is the control of behavior and decision-making.

Compared with men, however, women had much faster declines in cognition and executive function. Men and women had similar declines in memory, according to the findings.

The study is significant since the majority of Alzheimer’s patients are women, according to one expert not part of the research.

The findings add to the growing body of research that suggests women may have more cognitive reserve than men and therefore may perform better on cognitive tests early in the disease.

Some research points to biological reasons for those differences.

One author of the study is Dr. Deborah Levine, an associate professor of medicine.

The study is published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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