Here at MOSH, we love to see how science is making an effort to raise Alzheimer’s awareness and spread more information about what action is being taken towards prevention. A recent study conducted by the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement at Cleveland Clinic did just that by releasing data depicting the state of women’s health. The survey shows some alarming findings suggesting that American women generally lack knowledge concerning certain health issues, and this is something we are very passionate about helping change. Among this alarming data exists the finding that 82% of women are unaware of their own increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Surprisingly, the study found that 73% of women have never spoken with their healthcare providers about their cognitive health, nor have 62% of women discussed menopause or perimenopause.
At the Aspen Ideas: Health Festival, Maria Shriver and Beri Ridgeway, M.D. presented the findings of this study. Maria Shriver is the founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s movement and serves as a strategic partner for women’s health and Alzheimer’s at Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. Beri Ridgeway serves as Cleveland Clinic’s chief of staff. At this conference, the two were able to depict the status of women’s health in the U.S. and share factors that play a part in the increasing cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
Current research suggests that 40% of Alzheimer’s disease cases could be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. The data from this study displays tremendous opportunity for improvement as it reveals that many of the health factors affecting women are among those that can be adjusted with the women’s awareness of this health information. Excitingly, the survey found that women who are educated on lifestyle factors are highly motivated to prioritize them for reducing their risk for Alzheimer’s.
With the current research we have on Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on women, we luckily now know that monitoring the transitional phases in a woman’s reproductive life is crucial for reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as the disease is more prevalent in women after menopause. Given this, the data presented by this survey concerning women’s attentiveness to these aspects of their health is something we strive to help see improve. With women making up two-thirds of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, awareness of their risk for the disease and discussion of their health status and factors that contribute to its development is essential.
On a positive note, the study revealed that 71% of the women disclosed having seen a doctor in the past year, and 58% of these women described their health as being generally good. However, more than half (56%) of the women reported experiencing a lack of sleep, and 35% reported often waking up in physical pain.
The findings show that 32% of the women in the study who reported their physical health being poor attributed the cause to chronic conditions. Within the women who reported their mental health being poor, 33% attributed the cause to depression and 30% to anxiety. These characteristics of low physical activity, persistent health conditions, and depression have all been linked with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, by raising awareness of these contributing factors, we are much closer to finding a means of prevention for this disease.
A majority of the women in the study reported caring for others, with 43% of them reporting that they prioritize the health of others over their own. Single mothers made up the highest percentage (69%) of women who rated their health as poor or fair, and they reported the lowest quality of sleep overall.
Concerning the reports from the women of this study, Shriver noted that “the fact that women experience high levels of depression, anxiety, and insomnia but report being unaware that these are often symptoms of menopause means women may be going to the doctor, but not necessarily having the right conversations”. Shriver described the survey results as being “both a red flag about the state of women’s health, but also an exciting opportunity to redirect the way that both healthcare providers and women think, talk, and act on issues involving women’s health – at every age and every stage of a women’s health span”. Furthermore, Shriver suggested that “women want the information, and it’s incumbent on us all to get it to them”.
Reflecting on the results of this study, Dr. Ridgeway suggested that “this survey illustrates the need to inform women of the link” between “women’s unique biology and experiences over the course of their lifetime” and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Ridgeway noted that the survey also presents the need to “empower women to start having conversations with their providers so they can prioritize their brain health and improve overall outcomes”.
This study highlights the many existing opportunities for educating and empowering women in the realm of brain and overall health. Through our delicious brain-healthy MOSH bars and the funds we donate to the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, we strive to aid the fight towards decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and the impact it has on thousands of lives worldwide.