It’s not possible to definitively say who will get Alzheimer’s disease, but there are some important aspects to keep in mind when examining your family’s risk for the disease. Family history of Alzheimer’s, genetic markers, gender, trauma history and overall health can all play an important part in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The more risk factors your family has the high the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is, always make sure and discuss any concerns you have with your doctor. Sharing the risk factors that you have with your doctor can help them determine if further testing should be done.
One of the most obvious risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease is if you have a direct family member who has been diagnosed. If your grandmother, grandfather, mother, father or sibling has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s you should be discussing your risk with your doctor. It is not necessarily a fact that you will also come down with the disease, so just have the conversation with your doctor and be diligent about early detection and a healthy lifestyle.
If you do come from a family with a direct relative who has Alzheimer’s, you can have a genetic test done to see if you or any other family members carry the APOE e4 gene. This gene is the strongest risk factor for someone to develop Alzheimer’s. Not many people actually carry the gene and it is an expensive test to get done, but if you feel strongly about your risk level it might be worth it to get done for you and your close family members.
Although both men and women can develop Alzheimer’s’ disease, women do have a significantly higher risk than men. Especially women who have some of the other risk factors associated with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis like trauma, heart disease and a close relative with the disease.
Head trauma can be something as simple as a past car accident, or playing football for many years and this head trauma can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Repeated blows to the head through a sport like boxing or an abusive relationship can also result in head trauma and an increased Alzheimer’s risk.
Heart disease leads to an increased risk of many other diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the other poor health issues that lead to heart disease can also increase your Alzheimer’s disease risk. Examples of these lifestyle and health issues include: not exercising, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. These health risks can lead to many other diseases and complications as well as Alzheimer’s.
So how can you help lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease for your family? Staying active physically and mentally is one way to lower your risk. Stimulating all your muscles, including your brain is a great way to keep your body motivated and young. Challenging your brain through learning and games is a great way to stay mentally alert, no matter what your age or Alzheimer’s risk factors are.
You and your family may not be able to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from taking hold of a family member, but you can be diligent about your health and do the best you can to minimize your risks. Informed decisions about testing and monitoring your family’s history can also be useful in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists still do not have a cure for Alzheimer’s or specific ways of early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, so it is important for you and your family to watch closely for any risk factors. Talk with your doctor to discuss any specific concerns you have for yourself or a family member who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.