Chapter 15 - Women and Alzheimer's disease risk: a focus on gender

Elsevier, COVID-19 in Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia, First Edition, 2023, pp 259-271
Schindler E., Hemachandra Reddy P.

A previous chapter highlighted the biological mechanisms by which female sex contributes to Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk and outcomes. However, discussion of AD in women is incomplete without considering the impact of female gender on AD risk, as gender encompasses psychosocial and cultural differences between women and men that also modulate risk for cognitive decline. The current chapter discusses several main social determinants of health and explains how women, as a historically oppressed population, may be particularly vulnerable to the effect of each on cognition. This chapter also considers the disproportionate female burden of dementia caregiving, how associated stresses augment risk for later cognitive decline among caregivers themselves, and how the COVID-19 pandemic may add to this risk. Understanding the gender-specific factors that affect AD risk and disease progression is essential for developing targeted preventative interventions and treatments. Future research is necessary to better characterize how social determinants of health uniquely impact female cognition compared to males. Moreover, future studies focused on gender identities outside of the male–female binary are critical to developing a holistic understanding of how gender may impact late-life cognition.