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Risk factors for Alzheimers have a lot to do with age, genetics, and heart health. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Alzheimers is not a normal part of aging, and it worsens over time. Symptoms usually develop slowly but eventually get severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. There is no cure, but there are treatments that slow the progression of the disease and help with symptoms. Here are 6 of the most common risk factors of Alzheimer’s.
The biggest-known Alzheimer’s risk factor is getting older. The majority of Alzheimer’s patients are 65 or older. Your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles approximately for each 5 years after age 65. Your risk is nearly 50% after age 85. Nobody knows exactly why the risk goes up so much as we age.
Family history is another big risk factor. If your parent, brother, sister, or child has Alzheimer’s, then your chance of developing the disease goes up. If more than one relative has Alzheimer’s, then the risk increases even more. Environmental factors may combine with family genetics to have a role in whether you will get the disease. In addition, researchers have identified genes that are linked to Alzheimer’s.
Experts believe there is a strong link between receiving a serious head injury and a future risk of getting Alzheimers. If trauma occurs repeatedly or it involves a loss of consciousness, the risks go up even further. The best ways to protect your brain going forward is to wear a helmet when riding a bike or playing sports, wear your seat belt in the car, and keep your home safe to prevent falls.
Research links your brain’s health to your heart’s health. Your brain is nourished by blood vessels carrying oxygen from your heart. Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease can be increased by the following conditions, which can damage your heart or blood vessels:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
The risk factors for vascular disease (including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol) may be risk factors for Alzheimers and stroke-related dementia.
People of Latino and African-American descent in the United States have higher rates of vascular disease, and this may put them at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. African-Americans are at greater risk than white Americans for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Because the health of your brain and heart are so closely linked, it’s important for you to take good care of both to prevent Alzheimers.
While there is not one specific lifestyle factor that has been shown to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the same factors that contribute to an unhealthy heart also increase your risk factors for Alzheimers.
Examples of lifestyle factors that may increase your risk of developing Alzheimers include:
- Lack of exercise
- A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
- Lack of social engagement
These risk factors are linked to vascular dementia, which is a type of dementia that is caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain. Working with your doctor to help you adopt a healthy lifestyle and help protect your heart may also help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.