Women more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease

Women represent 72 per cent of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease according to a new nation-wide campaign launched by Alzheimer Society.

Women represent 72 per cent of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease according to a new nation-wide campaign launched by Alzheimer Society.

Dr. David Westaway, president of Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories, said it mostly comes down to the fact that women have a longer life expectancy than men.

After the age of 65, the risk factor for the disease doubles every five years.

“The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age,” said Westaway who visited the society’s new office in Red Deer on Wednesday.

“You think you’re just getting set for a nice retirement and a nasty surprise comes around the corner.”

Other risks factors include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking.

The Red Deer chapter of the Alzheimer Society moved into its new, larger location earlier this month, at unit 1-5550 45th St. in Cronquist Business Park, where the sign for the former tenant — Ducks Unlimited — is still up.

Westaway, who is an Alzheimer researcher at the University of Alberta, stepped into the role of president in October and will be visiting each of the Alzheimer Society offices in Alberta.

He said women face the double burden of representing 70 per cent of family caregivers when it comes to the disease.

In Alberta, about 46,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Janice Fogerty, community relations manager with the society in Red Deer, said because women are so strongly affected by the disease, it’s important for them to be aware of it so they can become proactive.

“An early diagnosis can make such a huge difference, whether it’s their own diagnosis or somebody that they care about,” Fogerty said.

The Alzheimer Society is encouraging all Canadians, including women, to visit www.alzheimer.ca/the72percent to learn about the warning signs.

Common warning signs include memory loss, impaired judgment, thinking or reasoning and changes in personality and behaviour that are out of character.

Westaway said Alzheimer’s is a complicated and challenging disease, but it is receiving more attention. The Alberta government is currently working on a provincial strategy.

For now, there is no cure, he said.

“You only go one way. The disease becomes more and more debilitating. There are no treatments to stop it.”

January is Alzheimer Awareness Month.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com