What are Some Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s?

What are Some Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s?

What are Some Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that usually begins after age sixty and causes brain cells to die. The disease is gradual and usually starts off slowly. As it gets worse, so does a person’s memory and ability to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, doctors do not know yet what causes Alzheimer’s, but researchers have pinpointed certain risk factors. In this blog, we will go over some of the basic risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease and steps to take to take that may prevent Alzheimer’s in old age.

Risk Factors

Age

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, age is the greatest risk factor.[1] Statistically, “the risk of developing [Alzheimer’s] doubles every 5 years after age 65.”[2] Despite these facts, there is no consensus on why this might be. Not being able to understand what role age plays in Alzheimer’s is not insignificant, since aging populations will increase drastically in the near future. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the population of people over the age of 60 is projected to increase from 901 million in 2015 to 2.1 billion by 2050.[3] Thus, understanding exactly why age is such a huge risk can be crucial to finding ways to prevent it.

Family History

Research has shown that there is a link between family history and Alzheimer’s. If you have a direct family member, like your mother, father, sister, or brother, who has Alzheimer’s, then you may be more at risk either through genetics or environmental factors.[4]

Genetics

All human cells contain a nucleus. Inside this nucleus are chromosomes which are DNA strands tightly bound together by proteins. A specific segment of DNA is called a gene, and each gene is a “code” or a biological instruction which helps make proteins that determine what kind of cell is made. Each nucleus of a cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes.  Diseases caused by genetics occur by a mutation of one or more genes which impedes a gene from coding what it should and giving rise to certain disorders.

In Alzheimer’s, certain genetic mutations contained in specific chromosomes contribute to the formation of harmful plaques, a known trait of the disease.[5] Sometimes a child can inherit a genetic mutation from their biological parents which would increase the chances that the child will get the disorder. Inherited mutations from biological parents usually result in many cases of Early Onset Alzheimer’s which can affect people as early as their 30s. Other times, the disease develops much later, which is considered Late-Onset Alzheimer’s. In this form, there may not be specific genetic mutations associated with it, but people with a particular gene (the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene) may be predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s.[6]

Are There Preventative Measures?

So far, there are no conclusive studies that show certain actions can be taken to prevent Alzheimer’s. Although, there is some promising research. For instance, exercise, eating healthy, and stimulating your brain are an important way to keep your body and mind healthy. These activities have been shown to promote healthy cognitive functioning.

Exercise

Exercise is any activity that increases your heart rate above resting levels, causing you to breathe more heavily, and is meant to maintain your physical health. There is research to suggest that 30 to 60 minutes of exercise several times a week can improve memory, thinking, and judgment, as well as delay the start of Alzheimer’s.[7] Additionally, people who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are encouraged to exercise, as well. This is because exercise provides far more than just cognitive benefits, it also supports cardiovascular health, bone health, and improved sleep quality.

Eating Healthy

Eating brain-healthy foods has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 53%.[8] Examples of these healthy foods can include a variety of vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, poultry, berries, whole grains, and red wines. Eating a healthy diet means avoiding foods that are high in saturated fats, sugars, and simple flours. Such foods include cheese, butter, candies, and white bread. Following a moderately strict diet can have profound benefits that can keep you healthy in old age.

Stimulating Your Mind

Activities that stimulate your mind can include things like exercise, reading, socializing, doing puzzles, or pursuing new hobbies. Activities like these can help challenge your mind and help your brain make new connections which can promote healthy cognitive function. So, make sure to keep doing your favorite hobbies and step out of your comfort zone to learn some new activities.

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[1] Source: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_causes_risk_factors.asp

[2] Source: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/risk-factors-alzheimers-disease

[3] CITE UN

[4] Source: http://www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_disease_causes.asp

[5] Source: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-genetics-fact-sheet

[6] Ibid.

[7] Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-disease/faq-20057881

[8] Source: http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mind-diet

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