Women with Alzheimer’s May Have Worse Cognitive Skills Than Men

A study by UK researchers suggests women with Alzheimer’s may experience worse cognitive decline than men with the disease. The research, which analysed data from 15 separate studies is published on Friday 24 August in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.

The researchers at the University of Hertfordshire carried out a meta-analysis of 15 studies where tests of thinking skills were carried out for both men and women with Alzheimer’s disease. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than men, but in a healthy population, previous research has shown women typically have better verbal skills than men. The researchers wanted to discover whether in Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline is different for women and men.

They examined data from 15 groups of people that included 828 men and 1,238 women, and looked at results of a range of cognitive tests including tests of verbal skills, memory and overall cognition. When the results were analysed together, the researchers found that men tended to perform slightly better than women in these tests, regardless of age or the severity of the disease.

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This type of analysis can be a useful way of identifying common trends and features of a disease. This study has revealed a possible tendency for men with Alzheimer’s to preserve their mental performance better than women, and the next step will be for scientists to investigate why this might be. As the researchers point out, surprisingly few studies have investigated the effects of gender on Alzheimer’s. The more we understand about the different biological mechanisms at play in Alzheimer’s disease, the better our chances of developing treatments that could make a real difference to people’s lives.

“Every person’s experience of Alzheimer’s is different and no individual with the disease will ever be just a statistic. With half a million people in the UK affected by Alzheimer’s, we urgently need effective treatments. New treatments can only come through research, but if we are to offer hope for the future, we must invest in research today.”

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