By Victoria Allen Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail
Published: 21:00 BST, 9 October 2019 | Updated: 21:00 BST, 9 October 2019
Memory problems may be missed in women because they perform better in certain tests than men.
A study has found as many as 10 per cent of women pass tests for cognitive impairment when they should not.
This is important because cognitive impairment frequently leads to dementia. If it is not picked up early, medications and lifestyle changes may not work as well.
Women tend to do better in memory tests because they are better than men at remembering lists of words they have heard read aloud.
This is important because cognitive impairment frequently leads to dementia. If it is not picked up early, medications and lifestyle changes may not work as well
A study of almost 1,000 people given cognitive tests found just over a quarter of women had mild cognitive impairment.
But when the test results were adjusted for females' better verbal memory, it emerged more than a third may in fact have memory problems.
This was backed up by brain scans showing the additional women were more likely to have clumps of protein which have been linked to memory problems and dementia.
Dr Erin Sundermann, first author of the study from the University of California, San Diego, said: 'If these results are confirmed, they have vital implications.
'If women are inaccurately identified as having no problems with memory and thinking skills, when they actually have mild cognitive impairment, then treatments are not being started and they and their families are not planning ahead for their care or their financial or legal situations.
'And for men who are inaccurately diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, they can be exposed to unneeded medications along with undue stress for them and their families.'
The test looked at by the US researchers, which read older people a list of 15 words and asked them to remember as many as possible, is not the standard test in the UK.
But a similar verbal memory test is one of those recommended for Alzheimer's disease by health watchdog NICE.
The study looked at 985 people asked to recall a word list straight away, after 30