Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly 5 million Americans, a number that’s expected to balloon to 13.8 million by 2050.
In its mildest form, the neurodegenerative condition is characterized by symptoms including memory lapses, getting lost, repeating questions, and misplacing things – behaviors that generally get more severe over time.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the causes of Alzheimer’s, but there are some factors associated with an increased risk of getting the disease. For the most part, though, an increased risk doesn’t mean a person will necessarily get the disease -just that the chances are higher.
Here’s what the science has to say about the factors that influence your risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline.
Alzheimer and Age
There are some risk factors that you can’t control. Such is the case with age. Every five years after the age of 65, a person’s risk of developing the Alzheimer’s doubles, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Alzheimer and Genetics
Genetic mutations are becoming increasingly important as a way to understand how Alzheimer’s develops, both in late-onset and early-onset.
In the case of early-onset Alzheimer’s, in which symptoms start showing in a person’s 30s, 40s, or 50s, the disease is caused by genetic mutations in one of three genes that are inherited from a parent, according to the NIA.
There is not a known mutation that causes the late-onset disease, but there are some gene mutations that increase – and others that decrease – your risk.
Here’s the list of all the genes that have been linked with both early and late-onset Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer and Your Family History
While genetics can play a role, so might the environment that surrounds your family, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The organization noted that risk of Alzheimer’s increases if more than one family member has the disease.
When it comes to how genetics and a person’s environment relate to their risk of Alzheimer’s, there’s still a lot more research that needs to be done.
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