Written by Josh Horsman
Affecting 44 million people worldwide, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is one of the most prevalent illnesses known in the modern day. Because it is such a common condition, most people know someone who is or has been affected by AD and it’s for this reason, as well as the unforgiving symptoms, that it is one of the most widely feared diseases. Many believe that their risk of developing AD is higher if they have family members who have also lived with the disease, but is there actual evidence that AD is an inherited condition outwith our control? Or are there things we can do to reduce our risk?
Is Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic?
The truth is that Alzheimer’s Disease is actually seldom an inherited condition. In fact up to 99% of cases of AD are none-familial and are instead the result of other factors. But, in a small number of cases where several family members have had AD, the disease may be caused by genetics. If do you believe you may be at risk of Alzheimer’s by inheritance, speak to your doctor who will be able to refer you to a specialist genetic counsellor.
So What Does Cause Alzheimer’s?
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are caused when brain cells (also called neurons) begin to decay and die. This leaves the brain without sufficient power to perform all of its daily functions effectively and so, naturally, some functions begin to fail, manifesting in the outward symptoms of memory-loss, impaired judgement and confusion, amongst others.
While scientists are not quite sure yet what causes the brain cells to decay in this way, but research has uncovered multiple risk factors which can increase your likelihood of developing AD. The main one is age, but lifestyle factors like smoking, type-2 diabetes, high blood-pressure and high cholesterol are all factors which can contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s
How Can Your Risk be Reduced?
Understanding that Alzheimer’s Disease is not typically a genetically inherited condition means that perhaps we should not fear the illness as much as we do. In fact, research suggests that there are ways we can take steps to actively reduce our risk of developing AD in the future. The groundbreaking FINGER study is one such study which found that a healthy lifestyle comprising four key elements could significantly reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia. The four key elements are: A healthy diet, regular exercise, brain training and frequent social interaction.
For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease and to find the tools to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce your risk of AD, be sure to download and try the free MindMate App.