Women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more often
This finding is unexpected because women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease more often than men. There are several reasons for this, one being women live longer than men, but there are other neurobiological and hormonal changes in midlife that also play a role.
Discovering that these two risk factors don’t have the same impact on women speaks to the importance of taking differences between men and women into account when diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s, says Heal’s graduate supervisor and study co-author Roger Dixon, professor of psychology in the Faculty of Science and NMHI member.
“Precision health approaches are needed, a different treatment may be necessary for a person with one risk profile versus another one, and this has important implications for prevention and treatment.”
An insidious onset
The researchers looked at 44 years’ worth of data because Alzheimer’s disease has “an insidious onset,” Dixon notes.
“That means it starts way before we can diagnose it. Not just five years, but 10,15, 20 years before diagnosis, there are changes in the brain that are early signals of the disease.
“One thing a lot of researchers are doing is aiming to find those individuals who are most at risk for Alzheimer’s disease long before they get it, because once they get it, there is not much we can do except alleviate some of the symptoms,” says Dixon. The problem is how to identify the people who are at high risk.
“Fortunately, there are a number of large-scale longitudinal studies where we follow older adults and produce trajectories of change over time in factors that matter for Alzheimer’s disease—and this is where Mackenzie’s article falls into it,” says Dixon.
“We need neuroinformatics and analytical technologies that will help us identify combinations of risk that are most problematic for individuals.”