Age-related memory loss more common in men, study finds

High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and other known risk factors for MCI and dementia tend to be more common in men.

Story highlights

  • During study 7.2% of men and 5.7% of women developed mild cognitive impairment
  • Men appear to have higher rates of MCI but lower rates of dementia
  • Lead author says sex-related differences in physiology and brain function may play a role
Men in their 70s and 80s may be more likely than women of the same age to develop the memory loss and cognitive problems that often herald Alzheimer's disease, a new study has found.
In the study, which appears in the journal Neurology, Mayo Clinic researchers examined 1,450 elderly people in Minnesota every 15 months for an average of three and a half years. During that time, 7.2% of the men and 5.7% of the women developed the mental-function problems known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), with or without any accompanying memory loss.
The findings surprised the researchers because previous studies have suggested that more women than men ultimately go on to develop Alzheimer's and other forms of full-blown dementia. The fact that men appear to have higher rates of MCI but lower rates of dementia may hold important clues for preventing or delaying cognitive decline, the researchers suggest.
The lead author of the study, Rosebud Roberts, a professor of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, says that women with MCI may progress to dementia faster than men, causing them to be under-counted during the MCI phase. But sex-related differences in physiology and brain function may also play a role.
MCI isn't necessarily a permanent condition. Roughly one-third of the study participants who received an MCI diagnosis following a battery of tests and interviews subsequently improved to the point that they no longer met the diagnostic criteria at a later checkup.
This so-called reversion to normal, which has been seen in other studies, may indicate that in some cases the brain actually repairs some of the da