What are some risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease?

Risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Age. Increasing age is the primary risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Genetics (runs in families). There is a certain gene, apolipoprotein E (APOE) that is associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Other genes have been associated with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

Researchers believe the presence of the last five risk factors mentioned above might reduce the clearance of amyloid protein from the brain, which then increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, the presence of a number of these risk factors at the same time and while the person is in his or her 50s is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

There may be some ways to reduce the risk of mental decline. In general, living a healthy lifestyle protects the body from strokes and heart attacks and is believed to also protect the brain from cognitive decline. Scientists can’t absolutely prove the cause and effect of the following factors, but studies have shown a “positive association.”

  • Stay mentally active. Play board games, read, do crossword puzzles, play a musical instrument, audit courses at a local community college, do other hobbies that require “brain power.”
  • Get physically active. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which may directly affect brain cell health. Wear protective head gear if engaging in activities that increase the risk of a head injury.
  • Stay socially active. Regularly talk with friends and family, join in on group activities (such as worship services, exercise classes, choir, book clubs)
  • Follow the Mediterranean or DASH diet or another healthy diet that includes antioxidants. Consume alcoholic beverages in moderation – no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men.

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