Alzheimer's Disease - Common Risk Factors

By John Trevey

Though researchers are uncovering more information about Alzheimer's disease every day, neither a concrete cause nor a cure has been discovered for the disease. Conflicting research findings and an inability to diagnose the disease with 100% accuracy during a patient's lifetime present hurdles in researchers' efforts to demystify the disease in a way that will eventually lead to its cure. Though no one direct cause has been found for Alzheimer's disease, a number of risk factors have been identified that researchers hope will eventually lead to the ability to 100% accurately diagnose and treat the illness. The risk factors of Alzheimer's disease are continually researched and updated as more information about the disease is discovered.

Age: The most widely accepted risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is age. The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease is higher as a person grows older, with some studies suggesting that the risk of developing the disease doubles every five years after age 65.

Genetics: Heredity has been determined to be linked to Alzheimer's disease. The tendency of the disease to run in families can certainly be linked to genetics in a lot of cases, but does not rule out environmental factors that may also contribute. A person whose parent, sibling or child has Alzheimer's disease has a higher chance of developing the disease than those who have no family members with the disease. Additionally, the risk of developing the disease tends to be higher for a person who has multiple family members with the disease. Researchers have identified some specific genes that seem to play a role when the disease is present, which may set the precedent for major breakthroughs in the ability to diagnose or even predict Alzheimer's disease in the future.

Education Level: Surprisingly, it is widely believed that a person's level of education plays a role in his or her risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Research has led to the belief that patients which have had more years of formal schooling have a lower risk of developing the disease.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: Increasing evidence suggests that high blood pressure and high cholesterol, widely known risk factors for heart problems, can also be linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Lifestyle factors: A number of studies have linked dietary habits with the development of Alzheimer's disease. A diet low in fat and high in antioxidants is thought to provide some degree of protection against Alzheimer's disease. Similarly, smoking, not getting exercise and a high alcohol intake are believed to increase the risk.

The interrelated nature of Alzheimer's risk factors poses challenges to researchers. For instance, a lower level of education may be linked to Alzheimer's disease, but may be a result of other environmental factors like poverty, which can be related to a patient's familial background. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can be considered risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, but are also likely caused by a poor diet, which is identified as another risk factor. Extensive research studies aim to continually reveal more evidence of what causes Alzheimer's disease and how it can be prevented or alleviated, keeping hope alive that the medical field will someday be equipped with the knowledge to combat the disease.

John Trevey is the manager of The Breckinridge, a Lexington nursing home specializing in Alzheimer's care. For more information, please visit .

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