Alzheimer’s disease is an incurable and fatal condition that affects over five million people over the age of 65 in the United States. There currently is no way to tell who will develop Alzheimer’s later in life, but research is ongoing to identify risk factors as well as look for a cure. One study out of the University of Hong Kong has identified a connection between Alzheimer’s disease and the hormone testosterone.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that gradually causes the brain to stop functioning correctly. The disease damages and eventually destroys brain cells. This is a frightening disease for many people because so little is known about the cause of Alzheimer’s and because there is no cure. In the early stages, patients with Alzheimer’s may have trouble remembering new information or learning new things. As brain cells die, patients gradually become more disoriented, experience behavior changes, may become suspicious or feel threatened by friends and family, and may eventually have difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking.
The Hong Kong study watched a group of Chinese men who were all over age 55, lived in the same community, and did not have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Forty-seven of the 153 men had some problems with memory loss and clear thinking. During the year-long study, 10 of the men who had some memory loss developed further symptoms of the onset of Alzheimer’s. One common factor between these 10 was that all had low levels of testosterone. Testosterone is the primary sexual hormone in men, although it is also found in women. Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that carry instructions from the brain to various parts of the body to active chemical processes.
Dr. John Morley, director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, was a member of the research team. He said, “Having low testosterone may make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.