Independent Research: The Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease in Women

An insightful paper by Dorit Wang ’21, which she recently presented at a scientific conference in China.


Photo Credit: Dorit Wang

As part of her independent work in Horizons, Dorit Wang ’21 researched the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease in women, after being inspired by her time spent in local nursing homes. She compiled her research into a paper and submitted it to the 2020 International Conference on Public Health and Data Science in Guangzhou, China, where it was accepted. An interview with Dorit and her paper are included below:

What got you interested in Alzheimer’s?

Over the course of the past two years, I’ve volunteered in two nursing homes. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what senior residents’ lives look like in the dementia department at Kimball Farms. Through this experience, I noticed that the majority of residents were women, so I became interested in the reasons behind the disproportionate gender difference for Alzheimer’s Disease. 

What was the process of conducting this research like?

It’s interesting to explore different possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. As a girl who grew up in China, I try to incorporate my perspective of how women navigate through this world, and what modifiable risk factors people could do to prevent the disease and live a better life. I also include research studies that are done by experts around the world.

Did any of your findings surprise you?

It’s surprising to find that physical inactivity is the No.1 risk factor in the U.S. for Alzheimer’s disease. I did notice that some senior residents with dementia would sit in their wheelchairs for the whole morning without moving their bodies or doing exercises. I think physical inactivity is so common that people, including myself, sometimes fail to notice its effect on their health. Another thing that surprised me is the how slowly Alzheimer’s develops over time. When people show clinical symptoms of the disease, neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles had already begaun to accumulate about 20 years ago. 

Are you interested in studying Alzheimer’s disease in the future?

Yes, I’m interested in studying Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases, under the broader fields of neuroscience and psychology, in the future.