Scientists from the Mayo Clinic revealed there is a possibility that thousands of older men may be living with Alzheimer’s disease. However, they may not receive an appropriate diagnosis. Current testing methods may not detect the disorder because it affects men differently than women. The results of another study reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) cited similar concerns.
The Mayo Clinic Study
It has long been believed that women are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men. However, the percentage difference between the genders may likely exist because men are often misdiagnosed. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic evaluated the post-mortem brains of more than 1,600 people kept at the Florida Brain Bank and found evidence of Alzheimer’s in men and women who did not receive the diagnosis before death. The deciding factor involved in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease concerned the presence of amyloid and tau proteins, which clump and stick together. The masses then interfere with neuron transmission and blood flow, killing neurons in the process.
Of all the brains the scientists studied, 34 percent of the men with Alzheimer’s were not properly diagnosed or did not receive the diagnosis. However, only 22 percent of the female brains were incorrectly diagnosed.
Additional findings involved the age of Alzheimer’s onset. In women, the disease began developing between the ages of 70 and 90. In men, the disease started when they were in their 60s.
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The scientists assessed autopsy and clinical records of 1,073 people stored in the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC) database. The group determined that senior men and women were correctly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 78 percent of the time. However, 11 percent of the seniors did not receive appropriate diagnoses. Out of the smaller group of seniors, 30 percent had trauma caused by vascular dementia, 12 percent had dementia caused by Lewy bodies, 9 percent displayed frontotemporal dementia, and 15 percent had dementia caused by multiple disease processes.
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Reason for Errors
The reason for the wrong diagnoses in men has to do with the area in the brain where the amyloid and tau proteins develop and cause damage. In women, the proteins develop in the limbic area where the hippocampus lies. The hippocampal region is associated with memory. However, the proteins form in regions of the male brain that regulate behavior, language, personality, and physical movement. Under these circumstances, men may be misdiagnosed with diseases other than Alzheimer’s.
Neuroscientists do not know the reason Alzheimer’s disease affects men differently than women, and they believe a variety of factors may be involved. The difference may lie in gender, genetics, or chromosomal anomalies. However, as memory loss may not always be apparent in men, healthcare providers must learn to recognize the other symptoms along with the signs of dementia.
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