Are men more susceptible to age-related memory problems than women? A new study shows that men are more likely to experience mild cognitive impairment than women. Even more disturbing – these memory changes can be a precursor to dementia in some people.
What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Mild cognitive impairment is a condition where a person has difficulty thinking and remembering – but not to the degree that people with Alzheimer’s experience. It’s really a more exaggerated form of age-related memory loss.
Interestingly, people with mild cognitive impairment also have some of the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, although these changes are usually not as pronounced or severe.
Most concerning is the fact that people with mild cognitive impairment have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Do Men Have More Age-Related Memory Problems Than Women?
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic tested the cognitive skills of over 2,000 elderly men and women. After analyzing the results, researchers found that 10% had dementia, while 76 percent had normal memory and cognitive skills. Nineteen percent of the men had mild cognitive impairment, but only 14% of the women – meaning the men had a 1.5 times greater risk of mild cognitive impairment relative to the women.
It seems that women are more resistant to age-related memory decline than men, but no one knows exactly why. One theory is that men undergo a more gradual decline in memory and cognitive ability over time, while women transition more abruptly into dementia later in life. Thus, women may enjoy a longer period without memory problems relative to men.
Interestingly, studies show there are more women with Alzheimer’s disease than men, although this is due to the fact that women live longer than men – not because Alzheimer’s disease is more common in women.
Age-Related Memory Loss: Men vs. Women
Men are slightly more likely to experience mild, age-related memory changes than women. While these changes in cognitive function may be mild, this type of cognitive impairment is associated with a higher risk of dementia over time.
Certain diseases and vitamin deficiencies can also cause mild cognitive changes including diabetes, thyroid disease, some autoimmune diseases, neurological diseases, depression, and B12 deficiency. This is why anyone experiencing memory impairment or other signs of cognitive dysfunction should get further testing.
Eurekalert.org. “Memory problems more common in men?”
American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 153, No. 2: 132-136.