It wasn’t that long ago that heart disease was thought to be primarily a man’s disease, thanks to the American Heart Association and other organizations efforts, we now recognize it is a major health issue for woman as well. According to the 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures published by the Alzheimer’s Association, there may be a similar misconception about Alzheimer’s disease. The report states that women are at the epicenter of the disease. Nearly two thirds of those with Alzheimer’s – 3.2 million - are women. In fact, women in their 60’s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s during the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer. Women are also much more likely to carry the brunt of Alzheimer’s care as well. Unfortunately, the number of cases is on the rise. Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s today, which this number is projected to be 16 million by 2050.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with many contributing factors. According to Angela Geiger, chief strategy officer of the Alzheimer’s Association age is the greatest risk factor. Most people with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed at age 65 or older. Younger people than 65 can also develop the disease, although this is much rarer. While age is the most significant risk factor, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging and advanced age alone is not enough to cause the disease. Other factors including family history can also increase the risk. But there are things that can be done to lower the risk. Growing evidence suggests that the health of the brain is closely linked to the health of the heart. Many factors that increase the risk of heart disease are also associated developing Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, including smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Managing those risk factors would help. In addition, those who exercise regularly, and eat a heart healthy diet not only lower their risk of heart disease but Alzheimer’s as well. Staying socially and cognitively active lowers the risk also.
For general information about Alzheimer’s disease check out this short video produced by the Alzheimer’s Association.
More specific information about Alzheimer’s disease and women can found in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s at http://www.alz.org/shriverreport/index.html.