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A Greater Focus on Gender in Alzheimer's Research

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJuly 30, 2018

Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Of the 5.5 million people over the age of 65 with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 2 million are men and 3.3 million are women. There’s no question that women bear the burden of Alzheimer’s and now experts believe that there is a missing link when it comes to how the disease impacts women differently than men.

Learn more about the gender gap and why researchers are putting a greater focus on gender in Alzheimer’s research.

The Importance of Gender in Alzheimer’s Research

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the European Commission both mandate that sex must be included as a variable in research design, but a recent paper from the Society for Women’s Health Research suggests that:

Research is behind the curve when it comes to understanding the role of gender in Alzheimer’s.

The paper, published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, found that the “exclusion of… gender has impeded faster advancement in the detection, treatment and care of the disease across the clinical spectrum.”

Researchers Push for Gender-Specific Screening Tests

The authors of the paper believe that the development of sex-specific screening tests should be a priority. While women do live longer than men and age is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, longevity cannot fully explain the gender difference and researchers say now is the time to fill the gender gap.

Among other recommendations, researchers are calling for gender to be included in the development of new precision treatment methods and are also calling for scientists to re-examine past dementia studies for gender differences.

Pauline Maki, Ph.D., of the Center for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Illinois at Chicago and co-author on the paper says, “A growing body of research shows us that Alzheimer’s disease differs between women and men.” She goes on to say:

“To improve the diagnosis of the disease and to speed the development of new treatments and interventions we must better understand how the biological and sociocultural differences between women and men are influencing the development, progression and treatment of Alzheimer’s.”

Have you seen Alzheimer’s affect men and women differently and do you think there needs to be a greater focus on gender in Alzheimer’s research? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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