Causes of Alzheimer’s: What’s Really Known Today

Dharma S Khalsa, MD Health Guide
  •      For years, the causes of Alzheimer's disease have been somewhat of a mystery. Doctors and researchers have worked diligently to unlock the secrets of this complicated and devastating disease. Fortunately, significant advances have been made recently in understanding the causes of Alzheimer's.

         Post mortem examinations of the brains of Alzheimer's patients have shown large quantities of plaques and tangles in the brain. Plaques are excess amounts of the protein beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are surpluses of the protein tau that amass inside of the nerve cells and become twisted.  While the exact cause of Alzheimer's is still yet to be determined, several risk factors have been identified.

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    •  Age is the primary risk factor for the disease. Alzheimer's is generally contracted after the age of 65. Furthermore, as you get older, the risk of being diagnosed with the disease increases exponentially. While less than 5% of the population between the ages  of 65 and 74 have Alzheimer's, this figure grows in staggering proportions as people reach their late 70's and early 80's. In fact, approximately 50% of the population over the age of 85 risks having the disease.
    • While researchers have not identified a gene that directly causes Alzheimer's, there is strong evidence that there is a genetic component to the disease.
    • The APOE-e4 gene, a sub-type of the APOE gene, has been found in the majority of Alzheimer's patients. The APOE gene is involved in determining how cholesterol is transmitted in the bloodstream.
      There are three types of APOE genes: APOE-e2, APOE-e3, and APOE-e4. The most common form of the gene found in the majority of the population is APOE-e3. As of now, only the APOE-e4 gene has been connected to the development of Alzheimer's.
      Also, if you have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer's, you have a much greater risk of contracting Alzheimer's. This provides further evidence that there is a genetic component to the disease.
    • There is also a strong correlation between sustaining a serious head injury and developing Alzheimer's later in life. Therefore, if you have been the victim of such an injury, it is extremely important that you make adjustments in your lifestyle to help guard against coming down with the disease as you get older.

         Fortunately, the causes of Alzheimer's disease are not entirely out of your control. Adopting healthy lifestyle choices can greatly help to reduce the risk of developing this devastating disease.

         The most important lifestyle modifications to make involve lowering your stress levels, eating a healthy diet, and staying physically and mentally active. By doing this, you can go a long way towards steering clear of Alzheimer's disease.

Published On: May 27, 2009