Causes and Risk Factors of Alzheimer's Disease

Researchers continue to search for the underlying causes of AD. The causes likely involve some combination of environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and genetics.
Currently, the only proven risk factors for the disease include age and family history.
The incidence of AD increases with age.
  • Ten percent of people over 65 have AD.
  • Fifty percent of people over 85 have the disease.
  • The risk of AD doubles every 5 years after the age of 65.

Family History
People who have one or more blood relatives with AD are at increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Early-onset AD is a familial form of the disease caused by rare inherited mutations in one of three genes involved in the production and accumulation ofbeta-amyloid, a protein that gathers into sticky plaques in the brains of AD sufferers.
  • Late-onset AD is the most common form of the disease. Although they are still working to understand the nature of this type of dementia, researchers have identified two genes that may affect the risk of developing the condition:apolipoprotein E (apoE) and UBQLN1.

Ongoing research may soon shed more light on whether lifestyle choices and medical factors affect the risk of developing AD. However, no definitive research yet exists tying the disease to factors such as diet, exercise, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood lipids, and mental stimulation.


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