Half of all women are at risk of a stroke, dementia or Parkinson’s disease says study

According to a new study from Dutch researchers, one in two women and one in three men are at risk of developing degenerative neurological illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease or stroke over their lifetime.

Parkinson's disease - womanImage Credit: BlurryMe / Shutterstock

The study was published on the 1st of October 2018 in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The team of researchers looked at these neurological conditions among the elderly to estimate the prevalence of the problem, explained senior author of the study Professor Arfan Ikram.

We grouped these diseases together not only because they are common but also because there are indications that these often co-occur and might share some overlapping causes.”

Professor Arfan Ikram, Senior Author

He added that if the causes of these diseases overlap, prevention strategies and treatments could also overlap. Some of the proposed strategies, he noted, could cut down the risk of these neurological conditions by as much as 20-50%.

The researchers looked at over 12,000 healthy individuals over 45 years of age and followed them up between 1990 and 2016.

Over these 26 years, 5291 people died. Among all the participants, around 1500 presented developed dementia, 1285 had a stroke (65 percent of these were ischemic strokes) and 263 were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Among those with dementia, 80 percent developed Alzheimer’s disease.

When analyzing the incidences based on gender, the team noted that the chances of a woman aged over 45 years developing any of these conditions was around 48 percent while the chances of the men over 45 years of age getting one of these diseases was slightly lower, at around 36 percent.

Ikram explained that the gender difference was mainly because men tend to have a shorter lifespan.

He explained that one potential reason for the lesser incidence of these diseases in men was that they often die earlier and not because of any special protective effect of their gender.

He added that women lived longer and thus were twice as much likely to develop dementia and stroke.

Ikram suggested that the risk of each condition could be lowered by a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and smoking.

These measures have been proven to reduce the risk of dementia and stroke, and may also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The team explained that the study includes people of European ancestry only, who tend to have a longer lifespan. Other ethnicities and populations should also be studied, they suggest.

These findings strengthen the call for prioritising the focus on preventive interventions at population level which could substantially reduce the burden of common neurological diseases in the ageing population.”

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