Aug 11, 2011

Women Get Old and Get Dementia

Over 85 years old and a woman? This studied showed 41 percent were diagnosed with some type of clinical cognitive impairment.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room 

If the information below doesn't wake people up, I don't know what would. Had I known this ten years ago I would have paid much closer attention to my mother. This would have been especially true because she lived on her own.

Let's face it, dementia is hard to spot in the "oldest old". Over 85 years old. Why is it so hard to spot? For one thing it is easy to tell yourself, "they are just getting old". I can't remember how many people told me that when I started voicing concern about Dotty.

Her doctor of six years even told me, "she's just getting old".

Let's be honest. Does anyone want to hear that their old old mommy, or grand mommy has Alzheimer's? NO.

Let's speak plain English. These old old women with dementia can fool the best of them. Including a doctor during a typical ten minute check-up every three months. I don't think sneaky is the right word, but they are sneaky. Sneaky in the sense that they can tell you everything is fine. Just the words we want to hear.

Alzheimer's is a sneaky disease. Almost every caregiver I ever met told me, I could have, should have, or would have seen the signs earlier -- if.

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Do you know three 80 year olds? Well, chances are one of the three is suffering from dementia. Wake up.

Over 85 years old and a woman? This studied showed 41 percent were diagnosed with some type of clinical cognitive impairment.

Did you know that the population over 80 years old is the fastest growing segment of the population. Wake up America.

I'm willing to bet that many of the baby boomers that are just like me, I have an old old mommy, would tell you that they watch their mother and their mother's friends one by one get diagnosed with dementia.

Know anyone 80 or older? You might want to share the article below with them; or better, yet with their children.

What did they tell me in elementary school?

A Word to the Wise is Sufficient.

Dementia, mild cognitive impairment common in 'oldest old' women

Mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and their subtypes are common in the "oldest old" women, which includes those 85 years of age and older, according to a report in the Archives of Neurology.

The oldest old is "the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and is expected to increase in number by 40 percent during the next decade alone," the authors write as background information in the article. "Initial evidence suggests that the incidence of all-cause dementia almost doubles with every 5 years of age and that the prevalence of dementia rises from approximately 2 percent to 3 percent in those 65 to 75 years to 35 percent in those 85 years and older."

To characterize the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment and its subtypes in oldest old women, Kristine Yaffe, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco, and colleagues, evaluated data from 1,299 women enrolled in the Women Cognitive Impairment Study of Exceptional Aging, an ancillary of the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures.

The women had a mean (average) age of 88.2 years and 27.0 percent were older than 90 years. Of the women in the study, 231 (17.8 percent) were diagnosed as having dementia and 301 (23.2 percent) as having mild cognitive impairment, for a combined total of 41.0 percent with clinical cognitive impairment.

The prevalence of mild cognitive impairment was higher in women 90 years or older than in women 85 to 89 years (24.5 percent vs. 22.7 percent). Of the subtypes of mild cognitive impairment, amnestic multiple domain (affecting multiple cognitive functions, including memory difficulty) was most common, followed by non-amnestic single domain (affecting one type of cognitive function, not affecting memory) accounting for 33.9 percent and 28.9 percent respectively, with amnestic single domain (affecting one type of cognitive function, including memory difficulty) affecting 21.9 percent of women.

The prevalence of dementia in women 90 years and older was approximately double that of women ages 85 to 89 years (28.2 percent vs. 13.9 percent), however the distribution of dementia subtypes (Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, mixed or other) was similar across all age groups. Compared with women with normal cognition, those with dementia were on average older, less likely to have completed high school and more likely to live in a nursing home. Women with dementia were also more likely to have reported depression, a history of stroke, and to have an apolipoprotein E ε4 (APOE ε4) allele (an alternative form of the gene).

As treatment and course of dementia differ by subtype, the authors note that, "the distribution of dementia subtypes is vital for public health planning." In the present sample of oldest old women, Alzheimer's disease and mixed dementia accounted for nearly 80 percent of dementia cases combined, and vascular dementia accounted for 12.1 percent of cases. Therefore, "screening for cognitive disorders in the oldest old is of the utmost importance, especially in high-risk groups," the authors conclude.
(Arch Neurol. 2011;68[5]:631-636.

This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Aging and an Independent Investigator Award from the Alzheimer's Association.

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Bob DeMarco

is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

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