Alzheimer’s Disease Risks
Nobody knows for sure whether they will eventually develop Alzheimer’s
disease, the leading cause of dementia. But certain factors increase your
likelihood of developing this incurable disease. You can control some factors
my making different lifestyle choices. Talk to your doctor about what you can
do to lower your risk.
The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop
Alzheimer’s. According to the
Alzheimer’s Association, most people with Alzheimer’s are over 65 years of
age. After that age, your chances of developing the disease double every five
years. Almost half of people over 85 have Alzheimer’s. Since this is the
fastest growing age group, the incidence of Alzheimer’s will likely increase.
Women outnumber men when it comes to Alzheimer’s. According to the U.S. National
Library of Medicine, 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 factor.
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
thirties, forties, or fifties. According
to the Mayo Clinic, only about 5 percent of people with Alzheimer’s fall
into this category.
with risk genes may or may not develop the disease, but are more likely to than
people without these genes. The gene that’s most commonly correlated with
Alzheimer’s is called apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4).
People who have 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.
Wearing a football or bike helmet and fastening your seat belt may help you
prevent head trauma.
Scientists have identified brain abnormalities in people
who are likely to later develop Alzheimer’s. One is the presence of tiny clumps
of protein (plaques). The other is twisted protein strands (tangles).
Inflammation, tissue shrinkage, and loss of connection between brain cells are
other clues that Alzheimer’s may develop.
Alzheimer’s tends to run 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 more if multiple family members have Alzheimer’s. This could be due to
genes, lifestyle factors, or a combination of both.
The gene APOE ε4 plays a role here, too. APOE ε4 coupled with a family
history of the disease significantly increases your risk.
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.
High Blood Pressure
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
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 dementia. If you
exercise at least twice a week during midlife, you might lower your chances of
getting Alzheimer’s in your senior years.
Lack of Mental Activity
Mental activity might be as important
as physical activity for decreasing your risk. Mental challenges include:
- getting a
- playing a
- working in
an interesting job
games or doing puzzles
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