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Published on: March 2, 2016
Leaders from across the globe met in London last week and called on the World Dementia Council to put women as a priority item on their agenda. The meeting included leaders in Alzheimer’s and dementia from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and India. This action came as the World Dementia Council prepared to convene a two-day meeting in London beginning last Wednesday.
Women are twice as likely as men to have Alzheimer’s and dementia and twice as likely to care for a loved one with the disease. Yet, until now, there has been virtually no concerted drive to fund research on women’s brain health around the world and no universal cooperation among global leaders.
“Women are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s, and not just because we live longer. What is not clear, though, is why,” said Lynn Posluns, President and Founder, Women’s Brain Health Initiative. “If scientists can figure out the mechanism that causes more Alzheimer’s disease in women, they might be able to develop treatments that halt the process. This is the type of research Women’s Brain Health Initiative funds, for a healthier outcome for both men and women.
Women are not only at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease when compared to men; per capita, they also bear six times the cost of Alzheimer’s disease care that men do.
The stress and obligation that often falls to the women who family members with Alzheimer’s disease rely on as their caregiver is of concern to Women’s Brain Health Initiative. Alzheimer’s can last up to ten years, and caregiving can be physically and psychologically demanding – the dynamics are life-changers, and often present a financial toll that is shouldered by women.
With our complex system of health care, women’s caregiving is essential in providing the backbone of support and delivery of hands-on care. Some female caregivers are still in the workforce, have families and children to nurture, and must juggle unpaid care with their job and other obligations.”
“It is critical that the World Dementia Council consider the impact that Alzheimer’s has on women as a priority agenda item in their fight against this deadly disease,” said Jill Lesser, President of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s, a network of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “Today, there is virtually no concerted drive to fund research on women’s brain health around the world and no global cooperation among women leaders. Yet, the data reveals that women’s brains are differently impacted by Alzheimer’s and other problems associated with cognitive function.”
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK agrees, “Alzheimer’s research UK is delighted to be part of the global initiative; we know that dementia disproportionately impacts the lives of women around the world but we also know women are leading the fightback against this disease. By providing leadership, advocating for change and through pioneering research, we can change things.”
The meeting of the Global Alliance was held in conjunction with the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease, chaired by George Vradenburg.
The Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health was created in 2015 by Women’s Brain Health Initiative Canada, WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s USA, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and 21st Century BrainTrust® to raise awareness of women’s brain health challenges and significantly expand funding for sex-based brain health research, that benefits both men and women. It will define a scientific agenda, drive new funding for research, and convene scientific leaders to assure the most rapid and effective scientific strategies in women’s brain health. It will also raise awareness at the public and private level on the urgent health, economic and social tsunami that will result without gender-sensitive focus and investment.
As of 2015, 47.5 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, or more than the total population of Canada with numbers set to increase to 74.7 million by 2030 and 131.5 million by 2050. In Canada today, the combined direct (medical) and indirect (lost earnings) costs of dementia total over $33 billion per year. If nothing changes, this number will increase to $293 billion a year by 2040. The cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients in the US is estimated to be $226 billion in 2015. The global cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia is estimated to be $605 billion, which is the equivalent to 1% of the entire world’s gross domestic product.
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