Men's Memories Worse Than Women's, Study Says
A new study published in the JAMA Neurology had found that men experience more memory loss and brain volumes than women starting at age 40 and up.
The study looked at 1,246 cognitively normal people between the ages of 30-95.
- While memory started to decline for both sexes at age 30, male memory was worse than women overall, especially after age 40
- In males, the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory, was also smaller than women's, especially after age 60
- Men's hippocampus started off a little bit above average in the young people in the study,
- But then fell way below average in the older men compared to the older women
This is no surprise to most medical experts. We already know that as your brain shrinks, memory declines. We also know that women's brains are smaller in size than men's, but brain size scales with each individuals height.
Why Women Experience Less Memory Loss
Women have the benefits of the protective effects of estrogen. The hormone has been shown to shield pre-menopausal women from hypertension, bone loss, heart disease and even urinary tract infections.
Men may never achieve the same level of memory performance because their brains develop differently from the beginning. As we've evolved, women may have developed skills and strategies that helps their memory that men just never acquired.
Women are also at much less of a risk for vascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and smoking. Similar issues that harm your vessels harm your brain. Historically, men have had much higher risk factors than women.
Surprisingly, the decline in memory for both men and and women had never been associated with brain disorders like Alzheimer's. But one of the conclusions drawn in the past had claimed the reason we see memory and brain volumes decline in middle age individuals is probably due to underlying Alzheimer's pathology.
• If you can't remember lists, names, etc, when you're age 50 or 60, don't be alarmed
• Odds are that it's not evidence of early Alzheimer's disease
• Bad news - the study says your brain is going to age, no matter what
• Everything declines with age
• Very few people remain normal into the late 80s
Aging Process Tips
- How to keep the aging process at bay as long as possible?
- Healthy lifestyle
- Exercise of both the body and brain
- Keep learning (new language, instrument, skill, etc)
- Good evidence exists showing that learning new things stimulates brain hormones that help develop our brains
New Test May Help Predict Development of Memory Loss
Researchers at Mayo Clinic have developed a scoring system to assess whether an individual is at risk for developing memory problems that could lead to dementia. This could be a potentially inexpensive and easy method to identify the need for further testing.
While doctors are able to identify biomarkers for cognitive impairment using MRI and PET scans, they are expensive procedures. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s. 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
Researchers developed a three-stage prediction approach:
- Can be done at home
Patient goes through his medical records to see if, based on age, gender, family history, and other medical problems he has a high, medium or low risk
- Medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking have been linked with higher risk of developing cognitive impairment
- The patient goes to his doctor’s office for a mental status test
- There are a variety of these tests and while they are not diagnostic, they give a rough idea of whether something is going on with a person clinically
- Patient gives an inventory of any psychiatric symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and apathy, all of which have been shown to be predictive of early cognitive problems
- Patient can get a blood test for the APOE gene, which provides instructions for a protein circulating in the blood
- Study found that carriers of the APOE 4 variety were at increased risk for dementia
With these simple office techniques, we can now refine that earlier predictor to determine high, medium, or low risk. The test is important because at around age 65, primary care physicians may start thinking about assessing cognitive impairment and while the stages could show
Bottom Line: Aging is a Natural Part of Life
With age, lifestyle modifications such as exercise, intellectual exertion and social networking are standard and effective interventions, this approach could mean effective pharmaceutical therapies will be developed. Cholesterol-lowering drugs are used when a patient does not have heart disease. Disease-modifying drugs for Alzheimer’s may work the same way. This tust be addressed now - with the aging of America, the number of people who will develop cognitive impairment goes up dramatically.