While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, scientists are able to identify certain factors that contribute to the eventual development of the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association details some of the risk factors.
The most prominent factors contributing to the disease are immutable—age, family history, and genetics.
- Age: The number one contributing factor is the most inevitable of all. Most individuals with the disease are age 65 or older. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles about every five years after age 65. After age 85, the risk reaches nearly 50 percent.
- Family History: Those who have a parent, brother, sister or child with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease. The risk increases if more than one family member has the illness.
- Genetics: Alzheimer’s genes have been found in both of the categories of genes that play a role in whether or not a person will develop a disease. Risk Genes increase the likelihood of developing a disease, but do not guarantee it will happen. Deterministic Genes- directly cause disease, guaranteeing that anyone who inherits them will develop the disorder.
Other factors for Alzheimer’s are under your control.
- Head Trauma: Connections have been found between head trauma and eventual Alzheimer’s diagnosis, especially when the trauma is repeated and consciousness is lost. Protect your brain by buckling your seat belt, wearing your helmet when participating in sports, and “fall-proofing” your home.
- Head and Heart: Every heartbeat pumps about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your head, where brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen your blood carries. Conditions that damage your heart, damaging the efficient supply of blood and oxygen to your head, can also lead to Alzheimer’s risk. Protect yourself from hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol.
- General Healthy Aging: Staying active and healthy into your older age reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Try to keep your weight within recommended guidelines, avoid tobacco and excess alcohol, stay socially connected, and exercise both your body and mind.