disease is a condition that affects the way your brain functions. In the
early stages, people with Alzheimer’s often experience memory loss, such as:
- forgetting conversations
- forgetting events
- repeating conversations
- forgetting the names of familiar people and places
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, which means it
gets worse over time. People with late-stage Alzheimer’s often need help with
most of their everyday activities, such as eating, dressing, and bathing.
Researchers still aren’t sure what causes Alzheimer’s
disease. But certain factors increase your likelihood of developing this
incurable disease. You can control some factors by making different lifestyle
choices. You should also talk to your doctor about what else you can do to
lower your risk.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of growing older. However,
age is a risk factor for developing this condition. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 9 people over age 65 and 1 in
3 people over 85 has Alzheimer’s.
Women outnumber men when it comes to Alzheimer’s. According
study, a woman’s risk of getting the disease is 1.5 to 3 times higher than
a man’s. Odds increase after menopause. Since women typically live longer than
men, and the occurrence of Alzheimer’s increases with age, this could also be a
Researchers have found two classes of genes related to
Alzheimer’s. Deterministic genes guarantee that people will develop the disease
if they live long enough. Usually people with deterministic genes will develop
Alzheimer’s in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. The Mayo Clinic estimates that these
genes caused the condition in about 5
percent of people with Alzheimer’s.
People with risk genes may or may not develop the disease.
However, they are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people without risk
genes. The gene that’s most commonly correlated with Alzheimer’s is called
apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4).
Alzheimer’s often runs in the family. If you have a parent,
sibling, or child with the disease, you’re more likely to develop it yourself.
Your risk goes up if multiple family members have Alzheimer’s. This could be
due to genes, lifestyle factors, or a combination of both.
The gene APOE-e4
plays a role here, too. APOE-e4
coupled with a family history of the disease significantly increases your risk.
People who’ve had serious head injuries are at higher risk
for Alzheimer’s. Their risk increases if the injury involves losing consciousness
or happens repeatedly, such as in contact sports.
Scientists have identified brain abnormalities in people who
are likely to later develop Alzheimer’s. One is the presence of tiny clumps of
protein, also known as plaques. The other is twisted protein strands, or tangles.
Inflammation, tissue shrinkage, and loss of connection between brain cells are
other clues that Alzheimer’s may develop.
Researchers have identified smoking as a risk factor for
Alzheimer’s. An article published in the American
Journal of Epidemiology examined 19 previous studies. Researchers concluded
that current smokers were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of
dementia than those who had never smoked.
Having high blood pressure may increase your risk for
developing Alzheimer’s. Researchers
have found an especially strong correlation between high blood pressure at
middle age and the chances of later developing the disease.
Being overweight can double your risk of developing
Alzheimer’s. Obesity, or a body mass index of more than 30, triples your risk.
Limited physical activity
Lack of exercise can make you more prone to Alzheimer’s. If
you exercise at least twice a week
during midlife, you might lower your chances of getting Alzheimer’s in your
of mental activity
Mental activity might be as important as physical activity
for decreasing your risk. Mental challenges include:
- getting a higher education
- playing a musical instrument
- working a job that interests
- playing games or doing
These mental challenges may help keep your cognitive
functions healthy. Social interaction also helps. The key is to pick activities
that challenge you. Researchers
aren’t sure why this works. One theory is that your brain develops more
internal connections through these challenges, which protect against dementia.
People who eat few fruits and vegetables may have a higher
incidence of Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you’re concerned
about your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep a journal of any memory
problems you’re having and go over it at your appointment. Although there is no
cure, an early diagnosis will allow you to start a treatment that will help you
manage your symptoms.