As women in business you are leaders, innovators, managers, entrepreneurs, and relationship-builders. You may also be a mother, wife, grandmother, daughter, sister, and girlfriend. Women play so many important roles in our community. But did you know that being a woman also puts you at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease?
In fact, of the 747,000 Canadians with Alzheimer’s disease, an astonishing 72% are women.
It’s becoming common knowledge that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is rising rapidly, with numbers expected to almost double in the next 15 years, but why is it affecting so many women? One reason is that the biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease is age and women generally live longer than men. After age 65, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia doubles every five years.
So what’s a woman to do?
As successful businesswomen you know that hiding from the facts doesn’t make a problem go away. While we don’t yet have a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, research is providing us with lots of information about how we can reduce our risk and also live well after diagnosis.
Learn about the 10 warning signs:
Memory loss is the most common early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s not the only one. The other nine warning signs include: difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation in time and space, impaired judgment, problems with abstract thinking, misplacing things, changes in mood and behaviour, personality changes, and loss of initiative. Before you panic, it’s important to note that it’s normal for a person to experience some of these symptoms at different times of her life, such as when she is experiencing a lot of stress. But if you are experiencing several of these symptoms on a more consistent basis, it’s important to take action.
Get an early diagnosis:
If you are noticing several of the warning signs in yourself or a loved one, talk to your health care professional. They can do tests to rule out other possible problems and help you get a diagnosis. If you do have Alzheimer’s disease, getting an early diagnosis will allow you to benefit from medication, attend education and support programs, and plan for your future, including the future of your business.
Take care of your brain:
Whether your 38 or 83, it’s never too early or too late to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Healthy brain strategies include: eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, challenging your brain, maintaining your social connections, monitoring chronic conditions, managing stress, and protecting your head from injury. While you can’t control the aging process, these strategies will help you reduce your risk.
Women as caregivers:
Alzheimer’s disease also has a significant impact on women because we account for 70 percent of family caregivers. In many cases a woman is caring for both a parent with dementia and for children or grandchildren, becoming part of the “sandwich generation.” Add in your responsibilities as a businesswoman and you can easily see how this can become overwhelming. Being a caregiver can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being. Caregivers often experience difficulty juggling multiple responsibilities, managing stress, and finding time to address their own health issues. If you are a caregiver, don’t try to go it alone. Many community agencies offer support services, so reach out and be willing to accept some help.
Faced with the reality of the 72% statistic, it could be easy for a woman to feel discouraged. But there are many positive things we can do for ourselves and those we care about. For more information, visit www.alzheimer.ca/pklnh or contact the local Alzheimer Society at 705-748-5131. The Society offers education and support programs for persons with dementia and their family or friend care partners, as well as education sessions for businesses and community groups. If you would like to book a presentation, contact Diana Primavesi, Public Education Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.