Cognitive impairment progresses faster in women, study finds

Women with mild cognitive impairment that can lead to Alzheimer's disease appear to deteriorate faster than men, according to new research.

Researchers at Duke University collected data from 400 men and women in their mid-70s who experienced mild cognitive impairment, and followed up with them over the course of eight years. Using a standard test called the Mini-Mental State Examination, researchers found that thinking and memory deteriorated twice as fast in women as it did in men. Male study participants saw their examination scores drop an average of 1.05 points per year, while women's slipped 2.3 points annually.

"Our findings do suggest greater vulnerability in women with mild cognitive impairment stage, which is more severe than normal memory loss and is an intermediary stage between aging and dementia," said lead researcher Katherine Lin.

Several factors could be to blame for the increased rate of deterioration, including women being more susceptible to developing Alzheimer's-causing brain plaque, researchers said. Lin stressed that to determine exactly why women experience faster progression to Alzheimer's disease, gender-specific Alzheimer's research needs to become a higher priority among researchers.