At this time, there’s no definitive answer to what actually causes Alzheimer’s disease. Everyday there are new studies touting this new discovery that “may” cause Alzheimer’s.
Really understanding the cause won’t be easy. Everyone has a different biological chemistry that’s impacted by our life experiences such as where we lived or how we handle stress.
Alzheimer’s is likely caused by a combination of things over years of impact such as lifestyle factors, our environment, and genetics.
So let’s talk a little about these three categories.
First, Lifestyle Factors
It’s no mystery that the way we live our life affects our health. Historically, however, we haven’t been taught to think about how these choices affect our brain health.
But it just makes sense that if something we do affects our heart or another aspect of our health, then it likely affects our brain as well. That’s why things such as a poor diet, lack of exercise, chronic stress, along with a lack of purposeful, mental stimulation seem likely culprits to increase our risk.
Next, an Unhealthy Environment
For years, researchers have been pointing to things in our environment that cause cancer. So it seems probable, that many of these things may also have an effect on our brains, potentially leading to Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
This includes, but is not limited to, things such as air pollution, food additives, personal care products, plastics, and other synthetics.
It’s seems to be a big unknown.
A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that environmental exposures can result in damaged DNA and cell death.
The study says, “Researchers have found that the biological machinery that builds DNA can insert molecules into the DNA strand that are damaged as a result of environmental exposures.
These damaged molecules trigger cell death that produces some human diseases, according to the researchers.” That sure gets me thinking.
And third, Genetics play a role
There are genetic markers which researchers have correlated to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
One instance of genetics playing a role is when an individual has Early Onset Alzheimer’s and develops the disease between the age of 30 and 60. This represents less than 5% of all diagnoses, but the majority of these cases are from an inherited gene mutation.
For people over age 65, researchers believe that the APOE e4 gene variation increases a person’s risk for getting Alzheimer’s. Everyone has the APOE gene but not the e4 variation which has been directly linked to Alzheimer’s.
Having this gene variation does not mean a person will develop the disease, and some people with Alzheimer’s don’t have the APOE e4 gene.
What is the Number 1 Risk Factor of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease?
Well, it’s age. According to the Alzheimer’s Association*, the risk to developing Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years after the age of 65.
One in nine Americans over 65 has Alzheimer’s disease, and this increases to one in three over 85. Similar trends exist worldwide.
Additional Risk Factors Include:
Additionally, statistics show that nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Apparently, the reason for this is unknown but it’s believed to be a combination of life expectancy, biological and genetic variations, and different life experiences.
Additional risk factors include a family history of the disease, and racial and ethnic differences.
So as you can see, nothing is black and white here – it’s pretty much grey.
We may not know for sure what causes Alzheimer’s, but we can incorporate better lifestyle decisions that reduce our risks by doing what makes sense, Together in This.
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*2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 2015