About two-thirds of the Alzheimer's patients in the US are women, and conventional wisdom has long explained away that stat with another: Women live longer. Now, though, three new studies suggests that women's brains are actually more vulnerable to the disease and other forms of dementia, reports NPR. Not only that, but once women develop early cognitive trouble, the problem spreads twice as quickly as it does in men, one of the studies suggests, reports the Washington Post. Another study found that women's brains to tend to have more of the protein amyloid, which has been linked to Alzheimer's, and the third suggests that women who undergo surgery with anesthesia are more likely than men to develop problems with memory and thinking.
The findings are "perhaps the best evidence to date suggesting meaningful sex differences in vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease," reports the Wall Street Journal. One researcher says men and women at risk for the disease "may be having two very different experiences," reports Live Science. "These results point to the possibility of as-yet-undiscovered gender-specific genetic or environmental risk factors that influence the speed of decline." Possibilities include chromosomes, hormones, and changes in the body during menopause or even childbearing. If researchers can zero in on risk factors, they may be better able to develop treatments. (Some simple tests may signal trouble up to 18 years in advance.)