Huh? Men More Forgetful Than Women

What women have called selective memory loss in men is an actual condition.

confused man

How often have you complained that your husband can't seem to remember anything? You ask him to take out the trash, and fifteen minutes later he's still watching TV, claiming you never spoke to him. You remind him to pick up milk on the way home from work, and he shows up empty-handed. Yet he never seems to forget when his favorite football team is playing or when that race is airing on ESPN.

Is it selective memory? Well, maybe not. As it turns out, the guys may have an excuse for their inability to keep up with things as well as women do.


According to a new study, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), what typically exhibits itself as mild memory loss, is one and a half times more common in men than in women.

The study, published in the September 7 issue of Neurology, followed 2,050 people between the ages 70 and 89 in Olmstead County, Minnesota. Fourteen percent of women in the study exhibited MCI compared to nearly 20 percent of men. While many wives may be nodding their heads, indicating they're not surprised by these results, the study authors were.

Lead study author Dr. Ronald Peterson, director of the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minn. and member of the American Academy of Neurology, says dementia and Alzheimer's are more common in women, so he fully expected women to suffer more early memory loss problems than men. "We don't really understand what the results mean yet," says Peterson. "Most of us feel that more women suffer from dementia because they live longer than men."


It's possible, Peterson points out, that men develop memory loss earlier and that symptoms stay milder longer because they typically don't live as long as their female counterparts. Thus, they don't live long enough to develop full-blown Alzheimer's or other types of dementia.

Peterson also theorizes that men's greater memory problems may have nothing to do with early signs of dementia. Rather, they may be the result of vascular diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes, both of which can affect cognitive skills.

The study also showed that people with lower levels of education who were not married were more likely to suffer from mild cognitive impairment. "This really reflects the fact that someone with higher education probably has more cognitive reserve and can better compensate for mild memory loss," Peterson points out. He also says that married people tend to have stronger social networks, a lifestyle factor which contributes to overall better health, not just better memory.

So if you're regularly forgetting where the car keys are and can't seem to remember where you last put down that cell phone, should you be worried that dementia is in your future? Probably not. "Some forgetfulness is a normal part of aging," Peterson says.


But what if you're only middle-aged, and you're still getting befuddled over normal daily activities?

"Memory impairment in a 50-year-old is probably not Alzheimer's," Peterson says. "At that age, we'd probably look for other causes." He also cautions against getting too upset if you're misplacing things or forgetting to take out the trash. All of us can get off track when we're distracted, particularly in an age where we're multitasking so much. "When you regularly forget important information like doctor's appointments, tee times or lunch with friends, or when people around you start to notice, then you may have cause for concern," Peterson adds. "Don't ignore that forgetfulness. See your physician."

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Written by Deborah Huso for AOL Health