Dementia hitting women hardest

Women are hit hardest by the dementia epidemic sweeping Britain, according to a new study.

Women face a dementia 'triple whammy', Alzheimer's Research UK warns.
Women face a dementia 'triple whammy', Alzheimer's Research UK warns.

The illness is not only the leading cause of death among British woman, but they are also far more likely to end up as carers of those with dementia, Alzheimer’s Research UK has found.

The charity warned women are suffering physical and emotional stress and having to give up their jobs as a result.

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Hilary Evans, director of external affairs at the charity, said: “Dementia has a devastating impact on all those whose lives it touches, but it’s a ‘triple whammy’ for women - more women are dying of dementia, more women are having to bear the burden of care and more women working in dementia research are leaving science.

“The experiences of these women underline the urgent need to tackle the diseases that cause this life-shattering condition.

“In recent decades we have seen increased investment in areas like cancer have a real impact, and we need to emulate that success for dementia.

“Only through research can we find ways to treat and prevent dementia, and transform the lives of the hundreds of thousands affected.”

The report, which will be published next month at the Women of the World Festival, highlights the huge toll of dementia on women in the UK.

It found that more than 500,000 women are now affected by dementia, whereas about 350,000 men have the condition.

Women over 60 are now twice as likely to get dementia as breast cancer.

And women are more than two-and-a-half times more likely than men to provide intensive, 24-hour care for people with the illness.

In separate research, published last month in the journal Epidemiology, scientists suggested that there could also be environmental reasons why some people were more likely to develop dementia.

Researchers found that dementia rates were higher among people living in northern parts of Scotland and Sweden.

Two studies were carried out, one involving more than 37,000 Scottish people born in 1921 and the other among more than 26,000 Swedish twins.

Twins living in the north of Sweden turned out to be two to three times more likely to have the disease than those in the south, after accounting for factors such as age, gender and genes.

Likewise in Scotland, where people lived as an adult had a significant impact on the chances of developing dementia.

Exposure to vitamin D, which is made in the skin by the action of sunlight, has been shown to be linked to healthy brain function and dementia.

There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK costing the country £26 billion a year, the Alzheimer’s Society reports.

Two-thirds, £17.4bn, of the cost of dementia is paid by people with dementia and their families, either in unpaid care, estimated to be £11.6bn, or in paying for private social care.

This stands in contrast to other conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, where the NHS provides care that is free at the point of use.