While decline in memory function is something that happens to everyone with age, it has been shown that it happens earlier to men.
At the Mayo Clinic and Foundation in Minnesota, a recent study was
conducted on a group of 1,246 participants between the ages of 30 and
95. The purpose of the study was to reach a better understanding of
memory decline in later life.
According to Dr. Charles DeCarli, M.D. a neurologist with the
Department of Neurology and Center for Neuroscience, University of
California, who wrote an editorial published with the study,
“Understanding the basic biology of these early processes are likely to
substantially inform us about ways in which we can maintain cognitive
health and optimize resistance to late-life dementia.”
study participants were administered standard memory tests, along with
two brain scans that included an MRI and a PET scan to measure the
volume of the brain’s hippocampus and to check for amyloid buildup.
Findings of the study revealed that the memory storage area of the
brain, the hippocampus, usually begins to shrink from the age of 30 in
both genders. However, the decline was found to be more rapid in men.
“A decline in memory is something that happens to everyone,” said
study author Dr. Clifford Jack Jr. of the Mayo Clinic and Foundation in
Minnesota. “This type of decline happens in other organs of the body, so
why shouldn’t it happen with the brain?”
Memory Loss Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Dementi
Another significant finding of the study was that memory decline
appeared to be a part of the natural aging process. Instead of being
linked directly to the accumulation of brain “plaques” as seen in
patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
“There seems to be a profound effect of aging, itself, on
memory—independent of amyloid,” Jack said. “We think that [amyloid]
pathology tends to arise late in life, to accelerate a pre-existing
decline in memory.”
It was found among the participants of the study that memory and
brain volume declined between the ages of 30 and mid-60s, without any
apparent amyloid buildup. The amyloid buildup or plaque wasn’t seen
until around age 70.
The Difference between Genders
While it is still somewhat unclear as to the reason for the
difference in memory decline between men and women, some hypothesize it
could be related to the female hormone estrogen.
It is also suspected that the higher rate of cardiovascular risk
among men may be responsible for increasing their memory problems. As
Jack explained it, health conditions like stroke, heart disease, and
high blood pressure can lead to impaired blood flow to the brain.
Decreased blood flow to the brain could explain the shrinkage of tissues
-The Alternative Daily