A Man’s Memory Fades Faster Than a Woman’s

Wives everywhere are doing the “I told you so” dance over a new study that finds that a man’s memory fades faster with age than a woman’s.

According to the research, published March 16 in JAMA Neurology, everyone’s memory and brain volume typically begin to decline after age 30, but memory skills worsen faster in men after age 40 than in women. In addition, the portion of the brain that controls memory gets smaller more quickly in men than women past middle age.

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But wait. That’s not really the most important — or even most surprising — part of the study. And this may even be considered the good news. These age-related  changes have little to do with Alzheimer’s, according to the study’s Mayo Clinic researchers. They’re not linked with the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain, considered the danger sign of Alzheimer’s, or with the gene that’s a known risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s.Post-it note on man's head

Experts had speculated that the memory lapses we experience as we get older — those “senior moments” — could be related to early stages of the disease. “But our findings suggest that memory actually declines in almost everybody, and well before there is any amyloid deposition in the brain,”  brain researcher and lead author Clifford Jack, M.D., told HealthDay.

In other words, forgetting where you parked the car is a normal part of aging, and sorry, guys, but you’re affected more than the opposite sex.

The researchers studied 1,246 cognitively normal adults ages 30 to 90 from 2006 to 2014, testing memory skills and using scans to measure brain structure and detect the presence of amyloid plaques. What they found was that the area of the brain responsible for memory became smaller in men compared with women, particularly after age 60. Among those with the Alzheimer’s gene, abnormal plaque buildup didn’t typically occur until after age 70 compared with those without the gene.

As Jack told CNN, “No matter how you slice and dice these measures of neuro-degeneration, everything declines with age, very few people remain normal into the late 80s,” he said. “It starts first with men, but women follow.”

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In an accompanying editorial, Charles DeCarli, M.D., director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of California, Davis, wrote that the study “challenges the notion” that amyloid accumulation explains why memory declines as we grow older.

Instead, the research provides new information about what typically happens in the brain as we age and helps us consider “ways in which we can maintain cognitive health and optimize resistance to late-life dementia.”

What are some of those ways? Consider the recent Swedish study showing that diet, exercise and brain games can slow cognitive decline, improving some brain skills by 150 percent.

Photo: Ladida/iStock

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