While researchers cannot yet agree on a single “cause” of Alzheimer’s, there are several known factors that play into the risks of having this devastating disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, you are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s if any of the following applies:
You are over the age of 65.
Over 65, your risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years. Over the age of 85, your risk is 1 in 3 (one third).
You have immediate family members with Alzheimer’s.
The science is not clear on the interplay between genetics and common environmental factors, but having a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s increases your own risk significantly. Unfortunately, that risk goes up if you have more than one family member affected.
You have had a mild, moderate, or severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Any impact to the head can cause a TBI. Though most are classified as mild and non-life threatening, even these can lead to serious, long-term effects years later. This damage varies from cognitive decline, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s.
A key study found that older adults having a history of moderate traumatic brain injury have a 2.3 times higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, compared to those with no history of TBI. Having severe TBI raises that risk to 4.5 times as likely.
In addition, a history of TBI may accelerate the age of onset by 2 or more years, according to a study published in the Journal of Neurology. A Swedish study published in PLOS Medical Journal demonstrated the risk of dementia is highest within the first year of the injury, but that even a mild concussion can increase your risk up to 30 years later.
You have heart or cardiovascular problems.
Your brain is nourished by the blood pumped by your heart. If your circulation or heart is compromised or damaged, it stands to reason that your brain will suffer. Conditions of this nature that can cause an increased risk of Alzheimer’s include: heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and diabetes.
You are of Latino or African-American descent.
According to research, compared to older Caucasians, you have roughly 1.5 times more risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia if you are an older Latino, and twice as much risk if you are an older African-American. This connection is not yet fully understood, but scientists speculate it is related to higher rates of vascular disease in these groups.
It could be said that some (if not all) of these factors above are connected to what many believe is the root cause of brain decline, and eventually Alzheimer’s -- inflammation. Much study revolves around this connection and the development of the amyloid plaques and tangles found in Alzheimer’s affected brains.
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