US scientists have found that men may be at higher risk than women of mild cognitive impairment â€“ a stage that often precedes dementia. The study is published online in the journalÂ Neurology.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, studied 1,450 people between the ages of 70 and 89, for an average of three years. Participants took part in evaluations every 15 months to assess whether or not they had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI causes problems with memory and other thinking skills, but not to an extent that interferes with everyday life. Roughly half of all people who are diagnosed with MCI go on to develop dementia, usually Alzheimerâ€™s disease, within five years.
Over the course of the study, 296 people were diagnosed with MCI, but the researchers found that men were more likely to develop the condition than women. The results were surprising because previous research has shown women are more likely to develop dementia than men.
Further analysis showed that MCI with memory loss â€“ known as amnestic MCI â€“ was more common than non-amnestic MCI, where memory loss is not a major symptom. People who had less education or were not married were also more likely to develop MCI. The scientists suggest that further research could reveal whether different risk factors affect separate groups of people in different ways.
Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimerâ€™s Research UK, said:
â€œThese surprising results suggest that men may be at greater risk for MCI despite having a lower risk for dementia, and it will be important to see whether further studies can replicate these findings. A key goal for research is to identify why some people with MCI develop dementia while others donâ€™t. If we can understand why some people have a greater risk for cognitive decline and dementia, we stand a better chance of being able to prevent the condition.
â€œWith 820,000 people affected by dementia, and a rapidly ageing population, the need for research to find new ways to treat and prevent the condition has never been more urgent.â€
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