Men vs. Women: Whose Memory Is Worse?
Study Shows Older Men More Likely to Have Memory Problems Than Older Women
Interpreting the Findings
The new findings are at odds with some studies that have concluded women have more dementia than men, Roberts says. She isn't certain how to interpret the findings thoroughly yet. The findings may suggest that men have a delayed progression from mild impairment to dementia or that women stay in the mild-impairment transition phase more briefly, progressing more quickly than men do to dementia, she says.
The risk factors for mild impairment (such as advancing age) may be different for men, she also speculates, or they may occur at different phases of life for men than for women.
"A person with mild cognitive impairment might have problems with memory, making decisions, or problem solving, or problems with language, like finding a [right] word," Roberts says.
These difficulties are "not severe enough to affect social functioning or work," she says. "It's not something you would notice if you didn't live closely with them."
The study is scientifically sound, according to Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, chairman of the medical and scientific advisory council for the Alzheimer's Association, who reviewed the study for WebMD.
But the increased risk found in the study for men should be put in perspective, he says. For instance, carrying a gene known as the apoE4 allele boosts the risk of getting Alzheimer's, he says. "The gender effects still take a back seat to the genetic effects [of getting dementia] in terms of magnitude," he says.
Both men and women can improve their lifestyles to reduce their risk of dementia, says Gandy. He cites a recent study in which having belly fat as an adult boosted the risk of dementia later.
"As for recommendations [to reduce risk], for now, diet and lifestyle remain the mainstays," he says. The Alzheimer's Association recommends staying active mentally, socially, and physically, as well as adopting a "brain-healthy" diet.
To qualify as brain-healthy, a diet should be low in fat and cholesterol and be rich in dark vegetables and fruits.