Neuroscientist Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, together with some of her colleagues all over the world recently began to focus on what might be occurring -- specifically in women's brain -- other than aging and unfortunate genes,which results in higher rates of diseases specifically anxiety disorder and Alzheimer's disease in women.
A Prevention article said that the alarm bells began going off for Brinton 30 years ago when she saw just how hard women were being hit by Alzheimer's disease.
Considering the present statistics, almost two-thirds of patients diagnosed with the brain disease are women, an astounding one in every five humans, the report said. They will be diagnosed by age 65 and by 2050, as many as nine million women are likely to end up with the disease.
And for African Americans, it is said to be even worse as they are twice to thrice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to acquire Alzheimer's disease.
Women's Brains More Susceptible to Certain Illnesses Than Men
Brinton, the Center for Innovation in Brain Science director at University of Arizona explained, it's known that the average age of a diagnosis for Alzheimer's is around 72 to 75 years old.
It does not take a rocket scientist, she elaborated, to do the math and discover that when you deduct 20 from that average age of a diagnosis for the disease, you run into the average menopausal age which is 51.
Since what's described as Brinton's "aha moment," even more studies have provided convincing reasons that women's brains are more susceptible to certain diseases compared to men.
According to psychiatry and medicine professor Jill Goldstein, MD, from Harvard Medical School, sex differences in humans' biologies like different hormones and chromosomes for instance, impact each chronic disease.
Goldstein, who is also executive director of the Innovation Center on Sex Difference in Medicine added, so does gender, which includes things such as social roles and expectations.
The professor also expressed more optimism than ever that "we can have an impact" on the manner the disease is prevented and treated if the essentiality of such differences is paid attention to.
Effect of Estrogen on the Brain
In terms of shifts or transitions, puberty, pregnancy and perimenopause are the major ones playing a vital role in forming and altering the female brain.
And, explained Lisa Mosconi, PhD, director of the Women's Brain Initiative and The XX Brain author, while one may think mainly about reproduction, in terms of sex hormones, they in fact, serve several functions that are not associated with reproduction and everything to do with the manner the brain is using energy.
For the female brain, she continued explaining, estrogen is the master controller of energy production, keeping the brain cells active and healthy, not to mention fostering activity of the brain in regions accountable for memory, planning and attention.
It is known, she elaborated, that estrogen stimulates the formation of new links between brain cells, which is making the brain more robust and flexible.
Furthermore, said Mosconi, it is also estrogen is a neuroprotective hormone that actually protects the brain cells from harm. In men, testosterone is working in the same ways, helping their brains optimally work.
Changing Hormones in Women's Brains
Changing hormones in women's brains also fast-track the aging process, Mosconi explained, weakening the neurons and making their brains more susceptible to both age and disease.
For instance, when she looked at brain scans of women in their perimenopausal and postmenopausal period, she discovered 30-percent reduced energy levels in the brain. Interestingly, men of similar age exhibited minimal changes or none at all in their brains.
The research of Mosconi and Brinton on the differences in how male and female brains are metabolizing glucose may help explain these results.
In both genders, Brinton said that the brain is consuming quite a bit of glucose, its main fuel source. She added, in women though, estrogen is controlling up to 25 percent of this glucose metabolism.
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