Holiday Spotlight: A Banner Year for Women’s Brain Health, Alzheimer’s Risk and Research
2022 was an especially eventful year regarding women’s Alzheimer’s research and awareness. This is very important, since 2 out of every 3 diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease are in women. In fact, aside from getting older, being female is the largest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Thus, if we better understand women’s risk, and the biology underlying it, we will open the door for more effective preventive strategies and treatment. Men should be deeply interested as well, since most have wives, mothers, sisters, or daughters, and whatever we learn about women and Alzheimer’s will certainly shed light on men’s risk, prevention, and treatment. We all stand to gain.
Here's a recap of 2022 and where to go to learn more.
Women's Reproductive Health and How it Affects Brain Aging
In March, a research article by Drs. Lisa Mosconi, Roberta Diaz Brinton, and Richard Isaacson was published (found here), ambitiously bringing together all that we know about women’s reproductive health and how it affects brain aging. The linchpin appears to be the hormone estrogen. It turns out that estrogen is not only crucial for women’s reproductive health, but it also plays critical roles for maintaining proper brain function. In the brain, estrogen helps create more neuronal connections, improves blood flow, increases energy production (the brain is the most energy hungry organ we have), and reduces inflammation. In short, estrogen is “neuroprotective.” In the simplest sense, the more estrogen a woman is exposed to in her lifetime, the lower her risk of Alzheimer’s disease. What makes it complicated is that estrogen levels can vary dramatically based on the timing and frequency of life events: menarche (first occurrence of menstruation), pregnancies, perimenopause, menopause (both natural and surgical), and subsequent hormone therapy if any. These open windows of vulnerability and opportunity for women to take action to protect their brain health. We had a lively discussion on this on Instagram Live with our medical advisors Annie Fenn, M.D. and Tom Holland, M.D., along with Nikki DeLoach (brain health advocate and actress), Elizabeth Humphreys (founder of Mind What Matters Nonprofit) and Edward Park, Ph.D. (founder of NeuroReserve). Watch the video and read the summary of their conversation by clicking here.
Preeclampsia and Dementia Risk
In August, another discovery regarding women’s brain health was announced at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), this time regarding vascular dementia, which is caused by obstructed blood flow to the brain. Researchers found that women with severe preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) showed greater evidence of damage to the blood-brain barrier than those without preeclampsia. An additional study showed that such blood vessel damage could last up to 15 years after pregnancy. The good news about these findings is that they underscore the importance of regular monitoring and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancies. Read and watch more about it by clicking here.
Tau Protein Accumulation and the X Chromosome
And in October, researchers reported a breakthrough in understanding why a protein called tau may accumulate more in women. You may have heard that buildup of a protein called amyloid beta in the brain isn a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, but what you may not have known is that accumulation and tangling of the tau protein is also a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Scientists have known that tau accumulation is more prevalent in women, but they never knew why. However, this new research from Case Western Reserve University revealed that an enzyme called USP11 enables tau accumulation, and USP11 happens to come directly from the X-chromosome (the female sex chromosome). Read and watch by clicking here as Annie and Ed break down this exciting development. This could lead to completely new strategies for prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s in women.
Advancing Advocacy and Research
Earlier this year, advocacy and awareness for women’s brain health stepped forward through the merging of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) and Cleveland Clinic. WAM was founded by Maria Shriver over 10 years ago, providing education, resources, and fundraising uniquely focused on women’s risk. It was the first of its kind by focusing squarely on women and dementia. By becoming a part of Cleveland Clinic, WAM joined forces with the Clinic’s groundbreaking research teams around the world to accelerate women’s Alzheimer’s research and prevention, particularly at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada.
MIND Diet Trial in Women
There was even the first reported randomized-controlled trial (RCT) with our favorite diet, the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). The trial was conducted exclusively in women, and it showed that obese women who adhered to the MIND diet performed better at cognitive tests than those who did not, and those effects were measurable in only three months. This showed that nutrition could make a significant and rapid difference for brain health, especially in those who are at-risk. You can read and watch more about the trial by clicking here, and you can learn more about the MIND diet here.
To say the least, 2022 was a banner year for women’s Alzheimer’s and dementia research, and we hope by highlighting these achievements, both women and men appreciate the complexity and the promise of this cutting-edge research. There’s a bright future ahead!
Learn more about our holiday offer by clicking here. Our Holiday Special Offer includes a copy of the book The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Maximize Cognitive Health and Prevent Alzheimer's Disease, written by Dr. Lisa Mosconi, best-selling author and world-renowned researcher in women’s brain health, who kindly agreed for us to gift it in our offer. Also, receive a special discount on NeuroReserve RELEVATE®. RELEVATE helps people achieve the nutritional profile of the MIND diet, which has strong clinical and epidemiological evidence showing it significantly reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (by 40-50%), and it helps maintain cognitive abilities as we get older. That means stronger memory, sharper thinking, and better brain function overall.