Women with Alzheimer’s disease retain their verbal skills for longer, compared to men. This can delay diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in women. The differences remain even though men and women have similar brain shrinkage in the areas that reveal early Alzheimer’s disease.
Study author Erin Sundermann said, “One way to interpret the results is that because women have better verbal memory skills than men throughout life, women have a buffer of protection against loss of verbal memory before the effects of Alzheimer’s disease kick in. Because verbal memory tests are used to diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, these tests may fail to detect mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease in women until they are further along in the disease.”
If the study findings are confirmed, testing for women and men has to be altered in order to properly diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
Mary Sano wrote in an accompanying editorial, “At a public policy level, the potential health care cost for under-detection or delayed diagnosis of women with Alzheimer’s disease or its early stages is staggering and should motivate funding in this area.”