Women and Alzheimer’s Disease

Women are disproportionately impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease are women.

Why? While we still don’t know the exact reason why Alzheimer’s disease affects women differently and with greater frequency, hormones have been implicated as a culprit. That’s because estrogen supports the area of the brain responsible for forming memories, the hippocampus.

Women and Alzheimer’s Risk

Age is a well-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and women live on average longer than men. Yet science also links hormones to increased risk.

In women, estrogen regulates the hippocampus – the brain region attributed to memory. During menopause, women experience a rapid decline of estrogen which some believe may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It also regulates stress and inflammation, two triggers that can negatively impact memory and more complex neural networks in the brain.

Today, leading researchers continue to examine the role of hormones and hormone therapy in the pathogenesis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Facts and Figures About Women and Alzheimer’s Disease

According to The Alzheimer’s Association, the disproportionate impact of Alzheimer’s disease on women is attributed to both age and biological factors. Genetics also play a role. Some research even suggests societal and cultural factors contribute to the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in women, including education, occupation, and reproductive history.

Here are the latest research findings about women and Alzheimer’s disease:

  • An estimated 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Of those, 4 million are women and 2.5 million are men
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are women
  • In Florida, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to increase by 24% by 2025.
  • The prevalence of AD increases with age, from 1% to 15% of all people in their 80s
  • Approximately one-third of Alzheimer’s cases are thought to be preventable
  • Women’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at age 65 is approximately 1 in 5, or 20%
  • Comparatively, men’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at age 65 is 12%
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the 4th leading cause of death among women and is attributed to 6% of all deaths behind heart disease, cancer and stroke
  • Women aged 60+ are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they are to develop breast cancer
  • Risk factors for developing dementia are more common among women, including depression and anxiety
  • Women who have three or more children have a 12 percent lower risk of dementia compared to women who have one child*
  • Women are more likely to mask symptoms, resulting in more severe burden of disease at diagnosis and more rapid deterioration
  • Women make up more the 60% of dementia caregivers

*The link between reproductive history and Alzheimer’s risk is new, but points to more gender disparity associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

For more comprehensive information related to 2022 Alzheimer’s disease fact and figures, download the latest Alzheimer’s Association Report. The Alzheimer’s Association also publishes these quick facts about women and Alzheimer’s disease.

Women and Alzheimer’s Research

The conversation around women and Alzheimer’s disease has broadened to encompass world-class scientists and a health system renowned for pioneering medical breakthroughs. In February 2022, Cleveland Clinic joined forces with The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) to form The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement at Cleveland Clinic (WAM at Cleveland Clinic). The partnership will expand the focus on prevention to understanding the connection between gender and neurodegenerative conditions.

This is significant in more ways than one. For starters, additional funds allocated to research will fuel discoveries around neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and how they affect men and women differently. More importantly, it could lead to significant advancements in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another group called WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s (WA2) advocates more funding for women-focused Alzheimer’s research. The organization believes “sex-based differences are the gateway to precision medicine, offering new scientific avenues to accelerate progress.”

According to its website, by understanding gender differences,  WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s hopes to achieve medical breakthroughs that can help both women and men and move us toward more effective treatment and care.

Women and Alzheimer’s Prevention

Still, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which is one reason why medical professionals emphasize prevention. For decades doctors have been touting the importance of healthy eating and sleep habits and the unwanted health effects of stress and anxiety. Science suggests lifestyle and behavioral modifications may prevent Alzheimer’s disease and the resulting physical, social, and financial toll it takes on affected families.

If you are going to get Alzheimer’s disease, most would prefer to know sooner rather than later. Genetic testing such as the apolipoprotein E (APOE) screening tool now helps people understand their genetic risk. Understanding risk can lead to earlier interventions that may influence or slow Alzheimer’s disease progression. It may produce an opportunity to participate in clinic trials. At the very least, early intervention allows one to make preparations and plans for the future to ensure proper care and a higher quality of life.

Despite your genes, gender, eating and exercise habits, there is still much to learn about what causes cognitive decline and associated dementias. In the meantime, examining the biological differences between genders will help scientists develop more accurate dementia risk measurements and help medical professionals design better prevention strategies to benefit both women and men.

Women and Memory Care

Given what we know about women and Alzheimer’s disease, technological and medical advancements are on the horizon. Product innovations are already here.

One such innovation called Serenades For Her celebrates the distinct differences between genders by emphasizing women’s need for privacy, comfort and socialization. This new and exclusively female memory care neighborhoodat Serenades Memory Care communities offers profound implications for the future of memory care in Florida senior living communities.

Women exclusive memory care combines robust social programming and activities to create a sense of sisterhood, enduring friendships, and mutual support among women with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The all-female memory care approach at Serenades is pioneering the way in which we manage the distinctive symptoms of dementia in women to provide a higher quality of life throughout all phases of the disease. 

For more facts about the cause, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and women, download the latest copy of the World Alzheimer’s Report.

Discover exclusively female memory care at Serenades for Her.
Find a community near you or schedule a visit to learn more.


Visit Serenades and find out how a person-centered approach to care has allowed us to continually raise the standard in memory care assisted living.