It’s impossible to tell exactly how quickly the effects of Alzheimer’s disease will begin impacting a person and how fast their mental health will decline after diagnosis. However, a recent study shows that women may suffer from a more quickly progressing version of the disease than men do.
Tau and beta-amyloid are two proteins in the human brain known to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins exist in the brain normally but are cleared out regularly. When the person’s brain is no longer able to perform its proper clean-up activities effectively, the proteins begin to build up, and the individual develops dementia.
A recent study from the Lund University in Sweden investigated the buildup of these proteins in 210 men and 209 women with Alzheimer’s disease. The results, which were published in the journal Brain, showed that Alzheimer’s disease is likely to progress more quickly in men than in women because of the higher rates of accumulation of tau proteins.
“Tau accumulation rates vary greatly between individuals of the same sex, but in the temporal lobe, which is affected in Alzheimer’s disease, we found a 75% higher accumulation rate in women as a group compared to men,” explains Ruben Smith, first author of the study.
The researchers found that men and women are equally affected by the first stage of Alzheimer’s disease when beta-amyloid protein is building up in the brain. However, when the tau protein starts to join the party, women are more affected than men, because their tau proteins accumulate faster. This leads to more memory problems earlier on than men tend to have.
The study also showed that the accumulation of tau was faster among patients who already had a pathological accumulation of beta-amyloid. This means that the disease often progresses more quickly as time passes.
However, the study did not address the reasons why tau accumulation is faster in women than in men.
“Our study strongly indicates that the faster spread of tau makes women more prone to develop dementia because of Alzheimer’s pathology compared to men. Future experimental studies will be important to understand the reasons behind this,” concludes Professor Oskar Hansson.
We hope future research will also examine what can be done about this strange phenomenon.Whizzco