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Defy Dementia Episode 13: Mind the Gap – Women’s Higher Dementia Risk

This episode of Defy Dementia explores why women may face a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease than men. First, caregiver Angeleta Cox shares the story of her mother, Sonia, a former personal support worker (PSW) who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017. Then, Dr. Natasha Rajah (Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and Toronto Metropolitan University) discusses the latest research on the increased risk of dementia in women, and what women can do to protect their brain health. Don’t miss this episode full of practical brain health tips for you and the women in your life.

 
 

 

Key takeaways

  • Alzheimer’s disease affects more women than men, even considering women’s longer life expectancy.
  • Stress, reproductive history and decreased estrogen during menopause may increase women's dementia risk.
  • Lifestyle factors that decrease dementia risk can differ for men and women. For instance, after menopause, strength training and building muscle mass are particularly important for women to reduce dementia risk.


Key actions to take:

  • Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine, such as meditation, yoga, or deep-breathing exercises.
  • Maintain open communication with your healthcare provider about your reproductive health and potential risks.
  • Stay physically active with some cardio and a focus on strength exercises, especially after menopause. To learn more about exercise for brain health, read our exercise resources here.

Resources

 

Learn more about our guests

Angeleta Cox is a 49-year-old programs officer at Corrections Ontario, where she teaches inmates job and life skills. She is also the part owner of three restaurants. She is the main family caregiver to her mother, Sonia, a former personal support worker (PSW) who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 61 in 2017. Angeleta admits to being a lot like her mom – “a force to be reckoned with.” However, she is mindful of her dementia risk and is careful with her health by eating right, keeping fit, meditating, praying and managing her stress. Angeleta is a prominent volunteer in the dementia community. She is a founder of the Pan African Dementia Association, and also a member of the Black community working group at the Alzheimer Society of Canada, where she has served on several advisory panels.
 
Dr. Natasha Rajah is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University and the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Sex, Gender and Diversity in Brain Health, Memory and Aging. She is also an Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, Adjunct Scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and the CIHR Sex and Gender Research Chair in Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction. Prior to joining the Psychology Department in Fall 2023, Dr. Rajah was a Full Professor with tenure in the Department of Psychiatry, and Associate Member of the Department of Psychology at McGill University. Dr. Rajah also held senior administrative roles at McGill University, including Director of the Douglas Brain Imaging Centre and Assistant Dean (Academic Affairs) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus) and completed her postdoctoral training at The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California (Berkeley).