Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

Maintaining our mental and physical health is always a top priority. The causes of many diseases are not presently known. However, researchers tend to find links and potential factors that lead to these diseases and conditions.

These factors are known as risk factors, meaning they can increase the chances that a certain disease will develop. Since some risk factors can be changed, it’s important to focus on your lifestyle and environment. You can also counteract risk factors that are out of your control, by focusing on the factors that are in your control.

Since Alzheimer’s affects so many lives, reducing your risk is essential for you and your loved ones future. Alzheimer’s is associated with cognitive decline, as healthy brain cells struggle to self-repair. Although risk factors do not cause this disease, it is believed that they increase one’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

You cannot change your genetics, however you can change lifestyle choices. If you have high blood pressure for instance, there are ways to improve it. Understanding potential risk factors can help you better prepare for your future mental health.

Age

As many know, age is the most significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s disease. Each person is unique, so the aging process differs from person-to-person. Your body’s ability to repair itself, becomes less efficient as you age.

The connections within our brain are essential in terms of effective communication. When brain health diminishes, this affects one’s cognitive functioning. The older the individual, the greater the risk. In Canada, 1 out of 20 individuals over the age of 65 are affected. Once an individual is over the age of 85, this number increases to 1 out of 4.

Genetics

There is a rare form of Alzheimer’s known as Familial Alzheimer’s, which is directly related to genetic mutations. However, this type of Alzheimer’s only accounts for around 5%. Genetics is less of a concern regarding Alzheimer’s development.

There is a gene known as ApoE4, which 40-60% of individuals with Alzheimer’s carry. You can have two copies of this mutated gene, yet not develop Alzheimer’s. In fact, you can also have no copies of this gene, yet have Alzheimer’s. Other risk factors play a large role regarding the expression of genes.

Diabetes

There is a link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes (especially type II diabetes). In a study that examined one thousand individuals, it was found that those with diabetes were twice as likely to develop this disease.

Nerve cells gain energy from both oxygen and glucose in the blood. When an individual has diabetes, they are less responsive to insulin. Since insulin helps transport glucose to neurons, the neurons within diabetes tend to lose glucose exposure. If oxygen and glucose are limited, communication between neurons begins to diminish.

If there are multiple risk factors present, your synapses may continue managing. However, if you add diabetes on top of these risk factors, you could potentially push it to the limit. This is why it’s essential that you take care of yourself in terms of your lifestyle choices.

Heart Disease

There is a link between heart disease and Alzheimer’s, as 80% of people with Alzheimer’s also have cardiovascular disease. Once again, your neurons need oxygen and glucose to function properly. If you suffer from plaque for instance, your blood vessels become less efficient.

In order to prevent heart disease, you need to eat better and exercise. In turn, this can help you prevent Alzheimer’s. A nutrient-rich diet and exercise, work against potential risk factors. These are areas that you can directly change.

Learning and Social Interaction

Researchers are not exactly sure why, but it is believed that when you mentally and socially stimulate your brain, you reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. This means taking part in a stimulating career, taking part in activities that are mentally challenging (playing an instrument, reading, or mental games), and maintaining a healthy social life.

Closing Thoughts

We are learning more and more everyday regarding Alzheimer’s and the brain. Although we do not know everything, we do know that a healthy, productive lifestyle can help decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s and other life-threatening diseases.

Remember, risk factors do not automatically mean you’ll develop Alzheimer’s. You may have a genetic predisposition, but if you take care of yourself, these genes lay dormant. Basically, take care of your physical and mental health. Stay active, eat right, and laugh as much as possible.

photo credit: Christiana Care via photopin cc

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