Causes and risk factors
What causes Alzheimer’s? There is no specific cause of Alzheimer’s, but it can be triggered by genetics or environmental factors such as certain infections or medications that damage the immune system. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases with following:
1. Age is the single most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This irreversible process affects mostly those over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease affects one out of every nine persons in this age group, and approximately one-third of those aged 85 and older.
2. The defective genes you inherit from your parents don’t get you Alzheimer’s disease, but they can increase your susceptibility to acquiring Alzheimer’s disease later. However, Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by the inheritance of a single mutated gene in a few families, and in such a case the potential risk of developing AD by the next generations is significantly higher.
If your siblings or other members of your family have had dementia over the generations, especially at a young age, you may need to seek genetic counseling for further investigations and guidance. Doctors always ask people with a family history of Alzheimer’s to see a neurologist to know more about their risks of having Alzheimer’s disease as they become older.
3. It has long been recognized that excessive alcohol use causes injury to the nerve cells and brain disturbances. Several extensive research and reviews revealed a relationship between excessive alcohol intake and an increased risk of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia. Unlike other types of dementia, alcohol-induced dementia is believed to be reversible in its early stage.
4. Serious head trauma and concussions could result in Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies reported that patients aged 50 and over who experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at some point throughout their life had a higher incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People with more severe and multiple TBIs are at a higher risk. Trauma-induced AD could occur six months to 3 years after the trauma. Some neurologists still doubt the causation between trauma and AD.
5. An unhealthy lifestyle and poor sleep patterns are found to increase the risk of developing AD. False habits such as smoking, and lack of exercise could lead to different health issues including Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with Improper management of hypertension and type 2 diabetes are more exposed to getting late-onset AD. Fortunately, these factors are easily modifiable and could significantly reduce the probability of getting Alzheimer’s disease.