Expert's heartbreak over mum's dementia battle after stigma made her 'afraid' of medications

Woman struggling with dementia symptoms
-Credit: (Image: GETTY)


Diet and brain health expert Max Lugavere recently explored a new career path as a filmmaker, releasing his new documentary Little Empty Boxes which detailed his mum’s heartbreaking battle with dementia. She tragically died at the age of 66 in 2018 but Max’s interest in the topic of dementia hasn’t waned.

Appearing on The Human Upgrade podcast with Dave Asprey, the host confronted what he considers “to be sort of a crime against women” in medicine as he linked the stigma around hormonal menopause treatment with the biased demographic of Alzheimer’s patients. It’s no secret that the devastating neurological disorder affects more women than men - in fact, the Alzheimer’s Society notes: “Around twice as many women have Alzheimer's disease – the most common type of dementia – compared to men.”

While many put this to the fact that women tend to statistically live longer than men, Max argued against this putting down to menopausal changes in estrogen that strips down the brain-protecting hormone estrogen. He explained with a heartbreaking note: “Being female increases your risk by twofold as compared to men. And my mom…she was a statistic.

“A lot of people have the misconception that it's because women live longer. That's not the case. I think part of the (social conditions) that puts women at higher risk is that estrogen seems to be protective over the brain. During menopause, that rug is essentially pulled out from beneath a woman's feet.

“For those who are vulnerable, for example women who might already have preexisting insulin resistance, I think that that just presents a perfect storm for dementia risk. That's an area of ongoing research and we certainly don't have all the answers.”

Dave questioned if Max’s mum Kathy, who was 56 when she got diagnosed with dementia, was on hormone replacement therapy and the health and science journalist admitted: “No, she wasn't. She was actually quite afraid of it because of the early studies that seemed to link it to an increased risk of cancer.”

The podcast host fumed over this stigma dubbing it the “biggest crime against women” adding: “When people use bioidentical hormones at the right doses, they still think about cancer risk, even though the data is that it reduces cancer risk. So it's like the old story sticks.”

Max agreed, pointing out that he has experienced little social criticism like this around testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT, adding: “I think there still continues to be a stigma for women and HRT. And that's something that we need to actively work to unravel, because we are living longer today and a woman spends more than 50% of her life essentially now in that post-menopausal state.”