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Half of women but only a third of men will ‘develop dementia

Half of women will develop dementia, Parkinson’s or have a stroke in their lifetime, researchers have predicted.

But the same analysis found only a third of men will go on to be struck down by one of the three ailments by the time they die.

Scientists today claimed the gender difference was largely driven by women, who are known to face a higher risk of getting dementia.  

Dutch researchers acknowledged preventative measures could ‘substantially’ reduce the burden of the three neurological illnesses.

And dementia charities today urged middle-aged adults to eat healthily and exercise more, to slash their risk of the ailments.

Scientists today claimed the gender difference was largely driven by women, who are known to face a higher risk of getting dementia

Scientists at the University Medical Center Rotterdam tracked the health of 12,000 people for a period of 26 years.

All participants were under the age of 45 when the experiment began, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

Between 1990 and 2016, the team of researchers led by Dr Arfan Ikram found 1,489 had been diagnosed with dementia.

A further 1,285 had suffered a stroke while 263 were diagnosed with parkisonism – of which Parkinson’s is the most common form.

When the figures were broken down, it was found women (48 per cent) had a greater risk of developing one of the conditions than men (36 per cent). 

Dementia was of greatest concern for women – 25.9 per cent compared to 13.7 per cent for men – but the rates for stroke and Parkinson’s were similar.

Charities have for years highlighted the ‘disproportionate’ gap in rates of dementia between the genders, largely driven by women living longer. 

The study also found rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes were higher in the patients struck down by one of the three conditions.


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain.

There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.


The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.

It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.


Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.

Source: Dementia UK 

Dr Ikram and colleagues said their findings ‘strengthen the call’ for prioritising the focus on preventative interventions for people.

They added this could ‘substantially reduce the burden of common neurological diseases in the ageing population’. 

The team estimated the risk of developing the conditions could be cut by a fifth in middle-aged adults who adopt healthier lifestyles.  


There are two kinds of stroke: 


An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.


The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.

It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.

Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching the hospital. A further 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.

Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘This large study underscores the enormous impact neurological illnesses have across society.’

‘Women are disproportionately affected, particularly when it comes to dementia.’ 

Dr Routledge added it was ‘crucial’ that efforts to find a drug which can delay the onset of dementia symptoms were increased.

She said: ‘For most of us, our individual risk of illnesses like dementia is not set in stone and there are things we can all do to help maintain a healthy brain.’

An array of studies have shown eating a balanced diet, sticking to a healthy weight and exercising can ward off dementia.

And other trials have found not smoking, drinking within the recommended limits and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check can also help.

Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, also welcomed the study, and said it offers more evidence that being healthy can ward off dementia.

He said: ‘This study further highlights the well-established fact that women are at a greater risk of dementia than men.

‘But [it also] shows how taking proactive healthy lifestyle measures can significantly lessen that dementia risk, regardless of age.’

Dr Pickett, pointing to the discovery dementia patients were more likely to have had high blood pressure, added ‘it’s never too late’ to adopt a healthy lifestyle. 

Claire Bale, head of research communications at Parkinson’s UK, said: ‘This new study highlights the increase of serious neurological conditions including Parkinson’s, dementia and stroke in the UK.

‘Our recent analysis found that Parkinson’s is set to rise steeply to 170,000 by 2025 due to our growing and ageing population.

‘Although it’s important to point out that, unlike dementia, women are actually at slightly lower risk of developing Parkinson’s than men.

‘We urgently need to invest more in research to develop better treatments to help those living with these devastating conditions, and ultimately to find ways to prevent people from developing them in the first place.’


Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition.

Figures also suggest one million Americans also suffer.

It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.

It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.

Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.

There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.  

The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.


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