Women beware of this 10-year Alzheimer’s window

Women get a bum deal when it comes to a lot of diseases…

We’re far more likely than men to get autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus and celiac disease. We’re also plagued with more irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and depression.

And, to top it all off, we’re more likely to get the age-related disease most feared by men and women alike — Alzheimer’s. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women.

So what the heck’s happening here? Should we chalk it up to the unfair ways of nature — the same reason women get to experience the pain of monthly periods and childbirth?

Well, when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, nature seems to have something to do with it. And just like other burdens women face, it may be tied to the female reproductive cycle and the hormone that drives it — estrogen.

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The estrogen-Alzheimer’s connection

Researchers from the University of Southern California recently uncovered some unsettling news—there’s a 10-year window when women have an ultra-high risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

Researchers reviewed 27 Alzheimer’s-related studies and determined that women with a genetic predisposition toward Alzheimer’s are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s between the ages of 65 and 75 than before or after that critical window.

But men with the same genetic predisposition don’t have an increased risk during that age window. Even stranger, they have the same exact risk as women between the ages of 55 and 85 — except during that 10-year period.

Why?

Researchers don’t know for sure, but they suspect women’s increased risk during that time frame is due to estrogen — or a lack thereof.

When women hit menopause (typically around the age of 50 or so), estrogen levels plunge and their bodies become depleted of this powerful hormone. Some of the immediate symptoms of estrogen depletion include mood swings, memory loss, poor concentration, irritability, fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, stress, anxiety and depression.

But researchers believe it could contribute to long-term brain issues like Alzheimer’s too. One theory suggests that estrogen has a protective effect that prevents the hallmark of Alzheimer’s — amyloid beta plaques — from forming in the brain.

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Finding memory (and estrogen) support

Right now, the estrogen theory behind women’s skyrocketing Alzheimer’s rates is just that — a theory. There’s research to support it, but more research needs to be done to say for certain if estrogen levels are the true culprit.

There have been some studies that show ginkgo biloba, which can have an estrogenic effect, is helpful in preventing and relieving symptoms of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, but there still needs to be larger clinical trials to prove just how effective that is too.

But hey, when it comes to herbs, gingko biloba is pretty well-studied and safe to take, so you may want to give it a shot.

FYI… there was a study in mice several years ago that tied ginkgo biloba to cancer, but don’t let that study scare you off. There were concerns related to the type of ginkgo used in that study (a type manufactured in China that didn’t meet the same botanical and chemical standards typically used here) and the dosage (which was 55 to 108 times what people usually take). If you purchase a high-quality supplement, and stick to a reasonable dosage, you should be safe.

Of course, certain groups of people should steer clear of gingko biloba altogether (like pregnant women and people with bleeding disorders). But for healthy adults who want to ward off Alzheimer’s and memory loss, you can safely take 40 mg of ginkgo biloba extract three times per day.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!

Sources:

  1. Women at Risk for Alzheimer’s Face Critical 10-Year Window, Study Says.” — WebMD. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  2. Viña, A. Lloret. “Why women have more Alzheimer’s disease than men: gender and mitochondrial toxicity of amyloid-beta peptide.” — Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2010;20 Suppl 2:S527-33.
  3. 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” — Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  4. How Hormone Depletion Affects You.” — Northwestern University Women’s Health Research Institute. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  5. M. Oh, K.H. Chung. “Estrogenic activities of Ginkgo biloba extracts.” — Life Sciences. 2004 Jan 30;74(11):1325-35.
  6. Wang, et al. “Ginkgo Biloba for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” — Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry. 2016;16(5):520-8.
  7. Bad News About Ginkgo Biloba?” — Dr.Weil.com. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  8. Ginkgo Biloba.” — Whole Health Chicago. Retrieved September 5, 2017.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.