Many of us are familiar with the fact that more women than men are affected by Alzheimer’s, but what else do the numbers tell us about women’s risk for Alzheimer’s Disease? Why is it that a woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 5? Among people diagnosed with the disease, almost two-thirds are female, and did you know that women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than receive a diagnosis of breast cancer?
At Greater Risk
Why are so many more women succumbing to the disease? The prevailing thought has been that women live longer, and advanced age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
But according to Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of Medical and Scientific Relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, “…there is emerging evidence that suggests there may be unique biological reasons for these differences beyond longevity alone.
“These biological underpinnings may contribute to the underlying brain changes, progression and symptom manifestation in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Evidence of differences in hormonal profiles between men and women is among those items for further study because the interconnection has yet to be confirmed.
The Stress of Caregiving
Stress and other lifestyle factors are also being studied for their impact on women’s brains and their role in women’s risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Being a caregiver is a rewarding but arduous task, especially if you are a family caregiver. According to the Mayo Clinic, being there when a loved one needs you can be a core value. But what if the relationship before diagnosis was already strained?
Unpredictable emotions and behavioral changes are part of Alzheimer’s progression. And as disease advances, so does the need for support, both emotional and physical. With more than 60% of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers being women, one-third of these are daughters, and almost 19% quit work because of these escalating care duties.
Married? Women who spend more than nine hours a week caring for a spouse increased their risk of heart disease by 100 percent and were found to have 23% higher stress hormones and a 15% lower level of antibody response than non-caregivers.
To support the needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, manage a household, family, and often a career, women are encouraged to set boundaries and commit to acts of self-care. Adequate nutrition, sufficient sleep, and leisure time are vital to commit to a loved one’s care for the long haul.
Angel Companions’ professional non-medical caregivers can support a more balanced approach to caring for a loved one in the place they call home. With no contracts and flexible scheduling, families can build a care plan designed to go the distance, keeping mom or dad safe and happy and the primary caregiver healthy.
Our ALZSmart approach to caregiving has received Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia’s approval for its evidence-based curriculum for caregivers.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s resources or to discuss your families’ specific needs, please call our office at 770-579-5000.