In the time is takes you to read this article, three people will develop Alzheimer’s disease and…two of those three will be women.
The Alzheimer numbers are staggering. There are currently 5.7 million sufferers in the United States and in thirty years, it is projected to rise to 14 million, two-thirdsof which will be women.
How can we change these numbers when the causation is genetic? Genes do have an influence, but we now know that it is one of several. Causation can be a combination of age, genes, high blood pressure and lifestyle which includes diet and exercise. We must also recognize the disease starts in the brain when people are in their 40s and 50s.
Why is the disease skewed to women? Research points to an ebb in estrogen, which had protected the brain. Estrogen stimulates neural activity and serves to protect the female brain from build-up of plaque. Once the estrogen ebbs following menopause, women become susceptible to plaque buildup and resulting Alzheimer’s disease. This hypothesis has been supported by PET scans of healthy middle-aged women that revealed the post-menopausal change.
The research points to two potential helpful solutions. First, the possibility that hormone therapy will help to decrease the risk. Secondly, a PET scan for post- menopausal women can detect the early sign of the disease and thus the patient can accelerate all possible means of avoidance to include diet, estrogen and antioxidant enhancing foods.
Yes, once again diet and exercise play an important role in disease avoidance, but so does early detection and focused treatment. We pray a medical solution will be found long before mid-century when the patient numbers would be staggering.
Image: Weill Cornell Medical Center