Women over 75 may be more at risk of dementia than men because they had less access to education, scientists say.
Those born in the first half of the 20th century, when fewer women finished school, tend to perform worse than male peers in tests showing how the brain has aged.
But as education improved over the years, the gap narrowed – and women under 75 now perform better than men.
The researchers, from University College London, said the findings showed how important equal access to education was for public health, especially in countries where girls are kept out of school.
They looked at 16,000 men and women born between 1930 and 1955 to find out the impact of education on memory and verbal fluency – both linked to the risk of dementia.
Those born in the first half of the 20th century, when fewer women finished school, tend to perform worse than male peers in tests showing how the brain has aged (file image)
First, the participants memorised a list of words then recalled as many as possible within two minutes. Then they were asked to list as many animals as possible in a minute to see how ‘fluent’ they were. Women born before 1946 scored worse for fluency than men.
But the difference ‘progressively reversed in more recent birth cohorts, with women born between 1946 and 1955 scoring higher than their male counterparts’.
This can be partially explained by better education – although other factors also influence dementia risk.
Women around the world are around twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society (file image)
Lead author Mikaela Bloomberg said: ‘Our findings suggest that among people educated in the first half of the 20th century, gender inequalities in access to education led to lower education levels among women and this likely negatively impacted cognitive ageing, and therefore increased the risk of dementia for women…
‘This might change in future, as disparities in access to education decrease, highlighting the importance of equitable access to education for health, particularly in countries where access to education for women and girls is limited.’
Women around the world are around twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Obesity could make Alzheimer’s worse
Obesity in middle age places a ‘burden’ on the brain that may make Alzheimer’s worse in later life, a study suggests.
Researchers say it kills brain cells and reduces blood flow in areas of the brain linked to memory, planning and navigation – which Alzheimer’s can also affect.
Obesity in middle age places a ‘burden’ on the brain that may make Alzheimer’s worse in later life, a study suggests (file image)
In a study of 172 brain scans, scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Eastern Finland found that those who were middle aged and obese had similar brain damage as those who were older and had the disease.
Lead author Professor Annalena Venneri, from the University of Sheffield, said: ‘It is important to stress this does not show that obesity causes Alzheimer’s, but that being overweight is an additional burden on brain health and it may exacerbate the disease.’
The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports.
This post was first published on DailyMail.