The risk of women developing Alzheimer's is one in six, compared to men who have a one in 11 chance. Photo by Italo Greco/Flickr
Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than men, and now a recent study may explain why.
Researchers have found that women's brains have more tau and beta amyloid, both linked to developing Alzheimer's disease, according to new findings published Monday in JAMA Neurology.
"This study points to a key biological difference that may explain why women are at higher risk for Alzheimer's disease overall, and why women show faster rates of cognitive decline," Reisa Sperling, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told UPI. "These findings may be important in targeting appropriate prevention therapies for women, ideally preventing the accumulation of both amyloid and tau pathology as early as possible."
All humans have tau and beta amyloid, but they only present a problem when they grow to large amounts.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 5.5 million people in the U.S. could have Alzheimer's, putting it just behind heart disease and cancer as a cause of death among seniors.
"Our previous work has suggested that women and men have similar levels of amyloid plaque, assessed with amyloid PET imaging, in the presymptomatic stages of AD, but women demonstrate more rapid cognitive decline for a given amount of amyloid," Sperling said.
"This new study demonstrates that women show higher levels of tau in neurofibrillary tangles, as estimated with tau PET imaging, particularly apparent in women with elevated levels of amyloid, at high risk for memory decline. This sex difference was most apparent in the entorhinal cortex, where tangles are accumulating as we age and then begin to spread throughout the cortex as memory impairment becomes manifest."
The researchers stressed the importance of focusing on gender differences of the disease based on the disproportionate effect Alzheimer's has on women.
In fact, two-thirds of people in the U.S. who develop Alzheimer's disease are women, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
"This study may help us personalize treatment for Alzheimer's disease in the future. We may need to target specific disease-modifying treatments at very early stages of the disease to reduce the risk of memory decline," Sperling said.