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Men at Higher Risk for Mental Decline That Precedes Alzheimer's
Date:1/26/2012

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Subtle problems with memory and thinking skills -- known as mild cognitive impairment -- often precede Alzheimer's disease, and a new study finds that men are at higher risk for these troubles than women.

Lead researcher Rosebud Roberts and her colleagues looked at 1,450 people from Olmsted County, Minn., who were between 70 and 89 years old and free of dementia in October 2004. Some three and a half years later, 296 had become mildly impaired.

New cases of mild cognitive impairment were consistently higher among men, except in the 85 to 89 age group. Overall, the risk was 40 percent higher for men.

Having a high school or less education was also linked to greater risk, and the study found that the combination of being male without college education brought an "unexpectedly high risk" of impairment that did not involve memory loss.

Currently married people were at lower risk of mild cognitive impairment than those widowed, divorced or single.

"One of every 16 persons in this age group develops this condition in a given year," said Roberts, a professor of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "As we have a large increase in baby boomers reaching the age of 65 and older, this is going to have a tremendous impact."

Bill Thies, chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer's Association, commented on the study.

"It's an interesting observation that mild cognitive impairment is a little more common in men than in women," he said. "It's not clear what that means or even if it's universal. Certainly, it hadn't been reported before in much smaller studies. It may be that they found it because their study is big."

Roberts said the difference may be due to timing of risk factors for dementia. "Diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension may occur at an earlier age in men than women," sh
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