Alzheimer’s disease is devastating for everyone affected as it robs one of the ability to recognize even the members of their own family. What are your chances of developing this horrible disease? Are you at an increased risk?
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized as the building up of proteins in the brain that show themselves in two ways. There are Plaques that are deposits of protein known as beta-amyloid and builds up in the spaces between nerve cells. Then there are Tangles that deposit the protein tau inside of the nerve cells.
Some people are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than others. As it attacks the elderly age is the highest risk factor. 1 out of every 8 people above the age of 65 has this horrible disease and nearly half of all the people over the age of 85 have it. Once someone reaches age 65 the chances of Alzheimer’s increases by twice as much every five years. Since women normally live longer than men they are considered at a higher risk.
A history of Alzheimer’s in the family makes someone two to three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The closer the relation the higher the risk to someone of developing the disease than those that do not have a history of Alzheimer’s in the family. There are two genes that have been associated with the disease; these are the “risk gene” APOE-e4, and the “deterministic gene” which is rarer and only found in a few hundred extended families in the world. History of another type of dementia and Downs Syndrome also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease for a person as those with Downs Syndrome are at a greater risk to develop the disease.
Those with heart conditions and high cholesterol levels are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The saddest part of this is that cholesterol lowering drugs also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There are other drugs that can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well like estrogen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); the reasons are unclear. Although during the 1980’s and 90’s there was evidence found that hormone replacement therapy such as estrogen supplements after menopause increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
There is a theory that over exposure to certain trace metals and chemicals increase the risk. There have been deposits of aluminum found in the brains of some patients. Zinc has also been thought to contribute but whether it is too much or too little zinc is not clear as of yet.
There are factors in ones lifestyle that will increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s as well. Those that do not wear seatbelts or have dangerous jobs that lend to the risk of falling could get a serious head injury which increases the risk. There are some things that can be done to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Early childhood experiences are also associated with an increased risk.
There are things that can be done to decrease an individual’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease such as exercise, eating healthy, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and engaging in activities that make you think.