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More women than men over age 65 will get Alzheimer's disease

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One in six women over age 65 will get Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota and North Dakota reports that number for men is one in 11, MPR News reports.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Debbie Richman, Director of Education and Outreach for the Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota and North Dakota says the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's is age.

"Statistically over the age of 65, one in nine will develop the disease; over 85: one in three. And disregarding all of the other things that we know, for example, diabetes is a risk factor, high blood pressure is a risk factor, something we know as mild cognitive impairment is a risk factor of developing the disease. Age is by far the greatest. And we are an aging population. So these numbers rising in this particular report is the beginning in what will likely be a rise in those numbers every year."

But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of old age. Approximately five percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's, which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.

Nationally, according to the Alzheimer's association, more than five million Americans are living with the disease, which makes it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Research shows the burden of the disease could be even heavier for women because women tend to care for family members with Alzheimer's.

The Star Tribune reported earlier this week that HealthPartners Center for Memory and Aging may have something to make Alzheimer's easier to diagnose.

The new tool is a "quick, pen-and-paper test that, if used during routine annual physicals, could detect cognitive problems in thousands of older patients who may have undetected Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological disorders."

Early intervention is key to treating Alzheimer's.

The Star Tribune reports the new test, called the Mini-Cog, takes a minute or two and is far more sensitive to mild cognitive impairment than a more-widely-used test developed 45 years ago that takes twice as long.

The Mini-Cog was developed at the University of Washington and was tested several years ago in more than 8,000 patients over age 70 in the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. None had a prior dementia diagnosis, but the Mini-Cog identified cognitive problems in nearly 26 percent of those tested.

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