Few things are more terrifying than the idea of your own mind betraying you, but that’s essentially what happens to those who develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It would be less terrifying if we had an effective treatment to cure (or even prevent) Alzheimer’s disease, but at the moment, no such treatment exists.
Even so, many people still want to know if they might be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and if you know what to expect, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself, even if it’s just getting your affairs in order and making sure you have a good power of attorney you know will represent your interests if the worst were to happen. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease:
Although early onset Alzheimer’s provides some exceptions to the rule, Alzheimer’s and dementia primarily affect people over the age of 65, and their risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after they turn 65. By the time people reach their 80s, they have a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Although no one knows why as of yet, we do know that women over the age of 65 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as men. Part of it might have to do with the loss of estrogen women experience after going through menopause.
Although we know that someone is more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease if someone in their family has or had Alzheimer’s, only early onset Alzheimer’s has been definitively identified as something that gets passed down from one generation to the next.
There are more than 20 genes that have been identified as playing a role in increasing or decreasing someone’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life and researchers are still working out which genes play what role in the development or prevention of Alzheimer’s. Nothing is inevitable – not even Alzheimer’s disease – so if you know you have some of the genes that put you at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s, you’ll want to take extra care to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible to try to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
People who maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially in their middle ages and older, are somewhat less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those who don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle. This means exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, and moderating their alcohol consumption. It also means staying mentally and socially active.
If you have certain medical conditions, you might be at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The riskiest conditions include diabetes, stroke and heart disease, high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol and obesity, especially later in life.
If you have any other questions about dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, whether it’s regarding your own risk factors, or a loved one who is already exhibiting symptoms of mental decay, we’re here to help.