Webinar examines relationship between women and Alzheimer’s disease
Women and Alzheimer’s Disease have a troublesome relationship.
In 2013, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that two-thirds of the people in the United States who have an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis are women.
Taking that a step further, the Alzheimer’s Association, a nonprofit that supports Alzheimer’s disease research, reported more than 60% of all caregivers of those who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are women.
At 6 p.m. on Dec. 8, the Alzheimer’s Association will address these issues and more when it continues its “Optimizing Brain Health” virtual series with a presentation focusing on women and Alzheimer’s disease. Information about how to access the webinar will be given at the time of registration. To register, email Amanda Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The webinar will be given by Dr. Jessica Caldwell, director of clinical training in neuropsychology and director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, and Dr. Ida Crocker-Sabbagh, a certified family physician at the clinic.
“We will discuss sex disparities in Alzheimer’s disease, and why women are more at risk of being diagnosed than men,” Caldwell said. “We’ll also talk about caregiving, and why that responsibility often falls more on women.”
The webinar also will touch on prevention, and the two doctors will discuss what they do at the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center.
“Our primary goal is to help women as patients reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease,” Caldwell said. “Because prevention is a relatively new clinical practice and we’re the only clinic in the country that is specific to women, we need to keep science at the heart of what we do as well.”
The center, which opened a few months ago, is also in the process of developing its Alzheimer’s disease research programs, according to Caldwell.
“Before we opened, I had been involved in research in sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease for the last four years,” she said.
Her research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, a nonprofit founded by Maria Shriver that raises awareness of the increased risk women have for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Four years ago, Caldwell, who has a total of eight years research experience, answered the call when Shriver approached the clinic and asked if anyone would be interested in positions to study Alzheimer’s disease.
“What I found in my research is that women have better verbal memory than men, which would seem like an advantage,” Caldwell said. “But when Alzheimer’s starts, that advantage may keep us from getting diagnosed because of the tests we use.”
Still, Caldwell and her team are starting to understand how that advantage relates to the structure of the brain.“We take those things back to practice or to study in order to make them ready for prevention practice,” she said.
While one of the center’s goals is prevention, there is no guarantee for the prevention of Alzheimer’s, Caldwell said.
“We can give a comprehensive assessment of the risk and a plan of how to get started on modifying those risks,” she said.
Modifiers include physical activity and diet.
“We know at this point that having low physical activity increases the risk, and we are still learning what physical activity can do,” she said. “We (already) know it can reduce depression, stress and directly impact the brain’s memory systems by increasing levels of chemicals that support memory.”
Research has also determined that certain types of diets help people live longer and age better, Caldwell said.
“Still, diet is a wide area, and there is a lot to be discussed regarding vitamins, minerals and intake,” she said.
Caldwell and Crocker-Sabbagh will also address caretaking and its consequences in terms of career and personal health.
There have been studies where the caregiver will pass away from a condition that is exacerbated by the emotional and physical stress before a patient does, according to Caldwell.
“Many women are also taking care of parents, which makes them potentially an at-risk caregiver,” Caldwell said. “Caregiving can take a lot of time and activity, which will prevent them from doing those preventive measures.”
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