Alzheimer’s Disease: Risk Factors
Alzheimer’s disease is a medical condition that affects the brain’s physiology. In the initial stages of the disease, Alzheimer patients often experience a loss in memory such as:
- Inability to recall events
- Not remembering conversations
- Repeating conversations
- Forgetting the names of familiar places and people.
The disease is progressive. What this means is that it deteriorates with time, getting worse and worse. Patients at the late stage of the disease often cannot perform daily activities independently. They will need help to perform even the simplest of tasks. For instance, an Alzheimer’s patient will need help with bathing, eating, and dressing.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not yet understood. What we do know is that there are a number of factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing the condition. These factors can be controlled by adopting healthy lifestyle choices. It is also necessary that you consult your physician to educate you on what you should do to minimize your risk.
Alzheimer’s is not an aging process. However, getting old is a risk factor for developing this condition. Studies by the Alzheimer’s Association have shown that 1 in 9 people above 65 years of age and 1 in 3 people above 85 years of age have Alzheimer’s.
Women are more at risk than men when it comes to Alzheimer’s. A study has shown that a woman’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 1.5 to 3 times greater than a man’s. The odds are raised after menopause. Because women have a longer lifespan than men, and the occurrence of Alzheimer’s increases as one gets older, then gender could also be a factor.
Research has shown that two classes of genes have a link with Alzheimer’s. Deterministic genes guarantee the development of the disease if the person lives long. People who have got the deterministic gene to develop Alzheimer’s disease in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s. According to a survey by the Mayo Clinic, genes are responsible for the development of the condition in 5 percent of patients.
People who have this risk gene may or may not develop the condition. However, the chances of developing the condition is greater in people who have the genes compared to those that do not have the genes. The gene that has the greatest link with Alzheimer’s is called the apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4).
Alzheimer’s can be inherited. If there is a history of the disease in the family, then it is likely that you may also develop the condition. The risk is greater if multiple family members have the condition. This may be attributed to lifestyle factors, genes, or even both.
The gene APOE-e4 plays a role here. The gene is linked with a family history of the disease, and this greatly increases one’s risk of developing the condition.
The risk for Alzheimer’s is higher in people who have serious head injuries. The risk is doubled if the injury results in loss of consciousness, or happens frequently, such as in contact sports.
Studies have shown that brain abnormalities normally occur in people who develop Alzheimer’s. The abnormalities occur prior to the development of the condition. One of the abnormalities is the presence of plaques in the brain. Another is the presence of twisted strands of proteins. Other abnormalities that give a clue of the development of Alzheimer’s include shrinkage of brain tissues, inflammation, and loss of connection between cells of the brain.
Studies have shown that smoking constitutes a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s. 19 previous studies were examined and the findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It was concluded that those who smoked had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to those who never smoked.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure constitutes a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s. According to research, there is a strong link between high blood pressure at middle age and the risk of developing the disease later in life.
A sedentary life
Living a sedentary life makes a person more prone to Alzheimer’s. If you engage in a weekly exercise, at least twice a week, then your chances of developing the condition might be reduced.
Poor mental activity
Mental activity plays an important role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Frankly, the role of mental activity is as important as the role of physical activity. Mental challenges include:
- Playing a musical instrument
- Enrolling for a higher education
- Doing puzzles or playing games
- Working a job that you are passionate about.
Putting yourself through these challenges keeps your cognitive functions at healthy levels. Leading an active social life also helps. The important thing is to engage in activities that you are passionate about. Researchers have no clue as to why this works. One hypothesis is that more pathways and interconnections are developed within the brain as one engages in these challenges, thus protecting against dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people who do not take many fruits and vegetables have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s.
If you feel that you are at risk of having Alzheimer’s, please consult your physician. Keep a record of any memory issues you have or may have had and go over it at your appointment. Although AD has no cure, having an early diagnosis will facilitate early treatment and help you manage your symptoms.