Today, 5.2 Americans have Alzheimer's disease and 66 percent are women. A new study has revealed women are much more at risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men. The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) report found baby boomer women age 60+ have a one in six chance of getting Alzheimer's disease in their lifetime as opposed to a one in eleven chance for men.
Boomer women, in particular, seem to be at the epicenter of the Alzheimer's crisis. Not only are baby boomer women at a greater risk to contract this disease, they are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's than they are breast cancer, and their chances of getting breast cancer are fairly high. So why do women face a greater risk of Alzheimer’s?
It is well documented that age, family history, genetics and one’s lifestyle have an impact on whether someone will contract Alzheimer’s. Now, in light of this new report on Alzheimer facts and figures on women, commissioned by the AA, it is evident that gender plays a role as well. More research is needed on genetic and hormonal differences to probe the reasons behind this revelation.
Baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, already feel the impact of Alzheimer’s. Millions of baby boomers currently serve as caregivers to elderly patients crippled by this disease and many are at risk of developing it themselves. The AA report found “60+ percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers are women” and many of them are boomers. This generation is being crushed by the financial, emotional and physical toll of caring for family members suffering with Alzheimer’s.
But there are preventive measures all baby boomers can take to lower their own chances of developing the disease. AA recommends ‘healthy brain life habits’ which include:
- stay mentally active;
- stay socially active;
- stay physically active; and
- eat a brain healthy diet.
A diet low in fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, mental fitness exercises and socializing are all advised.
Alzheimer’s disease can take a devastating toll on families and loved ones. The best known way to prevent this heartbreaking disease is to be proactive with your health. Fitness now takes on a new meaning for baby boomers, a generation known for its commitment to physical and mental fitness. Boomers, already well acquainted with Alzheimer’s from the caregiver perspective, now have even more incentive to lead a healthy lifestyle and decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s.
Support services for Maryland boomer caregivers are available at AA’s Maryland chapter.