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Women are uniquely impacted by Alzheimer’s disease

May brings Mother’s Day, a time to celebrate the women who inspire us. It’s also an opportunity to learn how Alzheimer’s disproportionately impacts women as people living with the disease and caregivers.

Women are at the center of the Alzheimer’s epidemic. According to the Alzheimer’s Association®, almost two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women. Even more shocking: In her 60s, a woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing the disease is one in six; for breast cancer it is one in 11.

Not only are women more likely than men to have Alzheimer's, they are also more likely to be caregivers of those with the disease. More than 60 percent of those providing unpaid care for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia are women. And because of their caregiving duties, women are likely to experience adverse consequences in the workplace. Among working female caregivers, 20 percent have gone from working full-time to part-time because their caregiving duties became too burdensome, as compared to only 3 percent of working male caregivers.

It isn’t known why more women than men are living with Alzheimer’s, though theories include differences in lifespan and when each sex may approach their doctor for guidance or diagnosis. To accelerate research toward answers, the Alzheimer’s Association is funding gender-focused studies through its Sex and Gender in Alzheimer’s (SAGA) research grant awards.

“Research showed us how women experience heart disease differently from men,” says Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer Maria Carrillo, Ph.D. “We need to look at Alzheimer’s in a similar way.”

To learn more about SAGA and other Alzheimer’s Association research initiatives, visit alz.org/research.