In medicine, the simple fact is that we don’t do as good a job of taking care of women as we do men. A woman often ends up having to prove she is as sick as a man, or has to mirror male symptoms, to receive the same level of care.
As this is present in all aspects of our health care, it is no surprise then that it is equally true when it comes to the health of our brains. Women are falling prey to Alzheimer’s but also to depression, migraines, and a number of other conditions that affect the brain. Yet modern medicine is largely unprepared to help them.
Fortunately, scientists have come to the rescue. In recent years, an incredible amount of work has been done both to denounce and to investigate the gender disparity in brain health. My mission is to take this work past the rigors and paywalls of peer-reviewed research and to give a wider voice to “the forgotten gender.” Since university, my work has focused on developing tools and strategies to optimize cognitive health, while at the same time warding off Alzheimer’s, particularly in women.
Witnessing my grandmother’s bitter downward spiral into dementia propelled me to devote my entire career to researching any and all possibilities of detecting the disease ahead of time. When both of my grandmother’s younger sisters developed Alzheimer’s, too, while their brother did not, my determination grew stronger still. I now find myself keeping a close watch on my mom for any warning signs, though I feel reassured as she carefully attends to a healthy diet and practices her yoga headstands at age 76.
As a middle-aged woman, I am concerned about my own risk. As a mother, I want to make sure my daughter has answers, options, and solutions.
As a scientist, it is my intention to help make preventive medical care to maintain cognitive function an integral part of every woman’s medical requirements, as commonplace as regular mammograms, Pap tests, and colonoscopies. Together, let us literally turn the page toward a tomorrow in which there is a dedicated equality of assessment and treatment in health care, our brains included, providing true hope for all.
As women, we experience gaps in income, power, and representation, but we also face a gap in knowledge about our health, collectively and individually. It’s time to rectify this and to address our unique symptoms and concerns as related to our brains and to our bodies as a whole. We all want our cognitive life span to match our life span—we can’t wait until signs of cognitive decline appear. We must be proactive now.