Why are two out of every three Alzheimer’s patients women?

Why does a 45 year old woman have a one in five chance of developing Alzheimer’s during her remaining life while a man of the same age has a one in ten chance? In fact women in their sixties have twice the risk of developing Alzheimers as they do Breast Cancer.

There is no doubt that Alzheimer’s Disease is increasing around the world at a worrying rate and there are not many of us who have not had to watch a loved family member or friend suffer with it and slowly disappear before our eyes.

For me it was my father who I lost in 2017.

In Australia Alzheimers is currently the number one cause of death for women and number two for men. So why do women out number men in getting this debilitating brain disease?

It is only over the last decade or so that scientists have really started studying the ageing female brain separately to the ageing male brain, in the hope of identifying why so many more women than men suffer from Alzheimers. One of these neuroscientists is Dr Lisa Mosconi, Associate Director of the Alzheimers Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College and Director of the Women’s Brain Initiative.

In her recent book “The XX Brain” Dr Mosconi identifies that one of the key reasons women are affected more than men is the hormonal changes a woman experiences as she moves through Perimenopause and Menopause. Not only does this period in a woman’s life increase her risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity and diabetes, research shows that it also changes a woman’s brain, making it more susceptible to ageing and disease.

So as a woman in her forties, fifties or sixties how worried should you be about Alzheimers?

In her book “The Women’s Brain” Dr Sarah McKay quotes a 2015 WHO report which sums up how many of us feel. “Dementia is highly stigmatised and universally feared. It is often perceived as a normal part of ageing, and that no actions can be taken to prevent or treat it.”

This is simply not true.

Dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of ageing. In fact 80% of people in their 80’s and nearly half of centenarians remain dementia free. We also know that two out of three Alzhiemers cases which is the most common form of dementia by far, are preventable.

So the more important question is what can a woman do to mitigate the risk of developing dementia as she ages?

We know that Alzheimers begins in the brain of both men and women decades before the first symptoms appear in old age when it has wreaked enough havoc for cognitive symptoms to appear. So waiting until you are in your seventies to worry about your brain is too late. It is how you treat your brain in middle age (35 – 65) that is key. 

For women middle age corresponds with Perimenopause and Menopause, making it even more important that they understand what they can do to keep their brains and bodies healthy during this period of hormonal change. The good news for women is that as we age our brains learn to compensate for the loss of estrogen and progesterone which occurs during the menopausal period which is one of the reasons why symptoms like hot flashes and difficulty sleeping start to disappear.

For many women however this transition is not easy and poor sleep, memory loss, weight gain, hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms continue to plague them for many years. This is where nutrition and lifestyle can play a critical role in women’s health and make all the difference to how a woman feels and how healthy her brain will be as it ages.

So what do women need to do to keep their brains healthy as they age? For both men and women there are some fundamental things that will contribute to a healthy brain:

Get a good quality night sleep
Eat a diet rich in plants, nuts, seeds and good proteins and low in sugar and simple carbohydrates
Drink plenty of water – your brain is 80% water and needs to keep hydrated
Reduce stress – practice meditation and gratitude
Eat plenty of good fats from olive oil, avocados, flax seeds
Move your body daily including regular strength and resistance training
Reduce your intake of food and give the brain time to recover and rest through intermittent fasting
Reduce body fat
Keep your brain active by learning new things
Connect with people

Dr Mosconi’s research shows however that for women the hormonal change of menopause means it is even more important that they nourish their brains and bodies with the right food and lifestyle. This means more hormone balancing food such as fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, plenty of healthy fats and clean protein, more flavonols like raw dark chocolate and more phytoestrogens like flaxseeds, sesame seeds and chickpeas. It also means lifestyle changes to reduce stress, improve sleep, reduce weight and manage insulin.

With this latest research showing that menopause is the only known factor to increase Alzheimers risk in women and women alone, it makes sense for all of us to learn more about this important issue.

I recommend the following books as a starting point:

The XX Brain by Dr Lisa Mosconi
Brain Food by Dr Lisa Mosconi
The Women’s Brain Book by Dr Sarah McKay

As a Certified IIN Health Coach and Brain Health Coacch I guide and support women to use nutrition and lifestyle to help them transition through Menopause and create healthy bodies and brains as they age.

Contact me to organise a free health consultation here
Learn more about my Embrace Menopause & Thrive and my Brain Health coaching programs here

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Embrace Menopause & Thrive

Every woman experiences menopause differently. Together we will find out what will work best for you to help you manage your symptoms, feel well and set yourself up for good health during your 40’s and 50’s.

The right food, exercise and lifestyle changes will help you to:

  • Sleep better
  • Wake up with more energy
  • Have a clearer mind and a better memory
  • Lose some unwanted kilos
  • Have less headaches, hot flushes and mood swings
  • Feel confident in your body and who you are as a woman

Be Well – Age with Confidence

Why is this program designed for women only?

Because researchers have now discovered that not only do women’s bodies age differently to men’s bodies, so to do their Brains and it has all got to do with hormones.

This is one of the reasons why two thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women and Dementia is the number one cause of death for women in Australia.

This program will take a woman’s perspective on health and wellness and incorporate elements of the Brain Fit, Memory Rescue and Embracing Menopause program.

Taking a bio-individual approach that looks specifically at your health and lifestyle needs you will discover how to:

  • Keep your mind and memory sharp
  • Successfully keep your weight at a healthy level
  • Nurture your body, Brain and hormones with the right foods and supplements to keep them healthy and balanced
  • Slow down ageing through the right exercise and lifestyle changes
  • Have the energy to live the life you want to live
  • Be confident in your body and who you are as a woman

Brain Fit for Life

Did you know that when your Brain works right, you work right and when your Brain is troubled, you have trouble in your life.

When your Brain is Fit you make better decisions, you are healthier, happier, have better relationships and are more purposeful and successful in life.

What we will do to make you Brain Fit!

  • Take a deep dive into how the Brain functions and how problems in different parts of the Brain can affect behaviour and your health
  • Assess your Brain and your Brain health via Dr Amen’s online Brain assessment tool
  • Look at the four circles of Brain health and how to balance your work and home life
  • Fuel up your Brain for high performance through nutrition, supplements and gut health
  • Give you tools and techniques to challenge ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts)
  • Develop a Brain optimisation plan that will protect your Brain for the future

Memory Rescue

Are you noticing that your memory is not as good as it used to be?

Has Covid affected your short term memory?

Is your Brain a little foggy or not as sharp as it used to be?

It is not until our memories start to slip that we realise how essential they are for working and living well.

The exciting news is the Hippocampus which is the memory centre of the Brain makes up to 700 new cells every day. If you put these cells in a growth environment they will thrive, keep them in a toxic environment and they will die.

This program starts with a review of your Brain health using the Dr Amen on line Brain health assessment tool which will give you a personal report of your current Brain health.

Then using the BRIGHT MINDS pneumonic as a guide we will look at each of the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind and what you can do to manage these risks, sharpen your memory, boost cognitive function, reverse brain ageing and decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.