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Dementia hits women especially hard

Women are more likely to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease than men — either by developing it or caring for someone who does, according to a new report.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women, according to the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report released last month. An estimated one-sixth of women will develop the disease in their lifetime after age 65, compared to one out of 11 men.

Women also make up a majority of unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers and are 2.5 times more likely to provide 24-hour “on duty” care, according to the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Women and Alzheimer’s Poll.

Additionally, the poll found that women are more likely to have their jobs affected by taking on caregiving duties for a loved one.

“Nearly seven times as many women as men went from working full time to working part time while being a caregiver, and more than twice as many women as men reported having to give up work entirely or to have lost job benefits,” according to the report.

A higher percentage of women than man also reported that caregiving duties caused physical and emotional stress, strain on relationships and negative impacts to family finances.

Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, is a condition characterized by memory loss, hindered mental ability and eventually loss of bodily functions. Although it has multiple causes, the Alzheimer’s Association says age is the greatest risk factor.

It is unclear why more women currently have Alzheimer’s than men, but a leading theory is that women typically live longer and thus are more likely to reach a high-risk age, according to the report. Another possibility is different brain structures between men and women, but more research on the topic is needed.

Founded in 1979, the Alzheimer’s Association is a non-profit group that offers educational and support services for people with dementia and their caregivers, according to its website. The organization’s Facts and Figures report provides a yearly statistical resource on the impact of Alzheimer’s disease across the U.S.

By the numbers

12 – Percentage of Minnesota seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

1,425 – Deaths caused by the disease in 2010

245,000 – Number of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in the state

280 million – Total hours spent providing unpaid care last year

Source: 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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