Published on: August 22, 2016
Some older adults – who are genetic risk carriers for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) – can maintain high levels of long-term memory over many years. One’s sex plays an important role in this, according to CCNA researchers, Ms. Kirstie L. McDermott, Dr. Roger A. Dixon, and colleagues.
Drawing on a cohort of 642 adults (aged 53-95), who were followed for up to 9 years in the Victoria Longitudinal Study, the team tested 22 known dementia risk and protective factors from 5 core domains: (1) demographic (e.g. years of education); (2) biological function (e.g. grip strength); (3) specific health conditions (e.g. diabetes); (4) mobility (e.g. walking time), and (5) lifestyle (e.g. everyday physical activity).
At AAIC 2016, the researchers reported that, of the participants genetically at risk for AD, more females than males showed high and stable levels of memory performance. While both sexes benefited from challenging, everyday cognitive activities (like playing bridge and doing taxes) in females, memory resilience was also predicted by:
For males, only one additional factor – fewer depressive symptoms – was an important predictor of memory resilience.
This suggests that the mechanisms for maintaining healthy brain aging may differ by sex. For at-risk older adults, then, modifiable factors from multiple domains can offer targets for sex-specific interventions to help sustain resilient brain and cognitive aging, delay cognitive decline and impairment, and promote functional independence into later life.
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